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Dr. Paul R. Houser,
KBC News posed the following question of Dr. Houser: What is your opinion of Interior's peer review report of Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report pdf, and also of the peer reviewers?"
Following is Dr. Houser's response:
"Here is my review of the review.
I note that comment 3-5: “The Summary and Findings section does not sufficiently express the uncertainties in the responses to restoration options” is generally consistent with my concerns over the September 21, 2011 “Summary of Key Conclusions” expressed in my September disclosure. Note that the summaries included in the draft EIS/EIR are more detailed than the Summary of Key Conclusions, but still have bias.
Also note Comment 4-2: “Make the process of evaluating the scientific information clearer (e.g., in Section 3) and ensure that the Secretary understands the scientific limitations of the advice provided by its expert panels.” For example, the expert panels conclude that most issues could be answered only qualitatively rather than quantitatively, as would be hoped for from scientific information. As put succinctly by the final Coho/Steelhead panel report: “… a decision to proceed with the [dam removal] projects should be understood as a decision to pursue a hypothesis of increased fish production, for which there is evidentiary support for qualitative responses, but whose quantitative outcome is largely unknown” (p. 71).
Further comments of note:
Comment 5a-1: “The Overview Report does not discuss the range of potential outcomes and associated unknowns to the degree expressed in the original technical reports”.
Comment 5b-1: “The KBRA includes discussions on fish restoration and several other key factors associated with dam removal. The document does, however, acknowledge that specific implementation processes have not been thoroughly developed. Because of this, some uncertainty exists about the overall effectiveness of implementation efforts”.
Comment 7a-1: “The risks and uncertainties of dam removal are not as clear, particularly in the Executive Summary, as they should be. Certain aspects of the system response to restoration are better defined (more certain) than others. Such distinctions are important. Recommendation: Edit the Overview Report to highlight the distinction between what is known with confidence and critical uncertainties”.
The reviews also point out inadequate discussion and accounting for the impact of reservoir sediment transport or contaminants. This is a critical omission that could have devastating effects on the current healthy downstream fisheries.
Finally, I am concerned about a peer-review with pre-determined questions. It is possible that the peer-reviewers may only address the questions they are presented, rather than looking at the broad credibility of the report. Peer reviews of scientific papers usually do not have such specific questions, so the reviewers are more broadly tasked with assessing the technical validity of the science presented. The peer reviewers are certainly impressive scientists. However, I note that they include a history professor, a power regulatory consultant, a senior scientist for the Nature Conservancy, a dam-removal engineer, and a salmon recovery professor. This appears to not be an impartial panel, and one with a number of obvious conflicts of interest."
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