Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Final Facilities Removal EIS/EIR and the politicization of Klamath Science

With recent distribution of the Klamath Facilities Removal Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report, the analysis and assessment phase for the KHSA (Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement) and KBRA (Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement) has officially ended. Including appendices and other material, the EIS/EIR is mammoth; it may well be the largest and most complex environmental impact report ever completed for anything pertaining only to the Klamath River Basin.

But producing those thousands of pages has been a rocky ride for the Department of Interior (Interior) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW); the process which produced the scientific studies, summary documents and even press releases for the analysis and assessment have been plagued by allegations of official misconduct. And while the first complaint by a whistleblower has already been rejected by Interior, other whistleblower complaints from scientists involved in producing information used in the EIS/EIR are still working their way through Interior's scientific integrity and whistleblower processes.

Whatever the disposition of the additional complaints turns out to be, scientific integrity reviews to date have already confirmed that the bureaucrats in charge of the EIS process intentionally skewed document summaries and press releases in order to emphasize conclusions their bosses at the US Department of Interior favor while omitting conclusions not favored by superiors. Remarkably, Interior's scientific integrity review said essentially that “spinning” press releases and omitting unfavored information from summaries does not violate scientific integrity so long as the underlying scientific reports are not manipulated.

Others have pointed out that members of Congress and other decision makers rely on those document summaries and rarely if ever read the underlying science reports.

This begs a question of propriety raised by KlamBlog early in the EIS/EIR process when the bureaucrat heading the EIS/EIR team made comments to authors on draft independent scientific reviews dealing with KHSA-KBRA impacts to Klamath salmon. KlamBlog believes comments to scientists from the head of an EIS/EIR team with the intention of influencing changes in a draft report (a report which was supposed to be “independent”) was inappropriate. Telling scientists what the head of the environmental review would like to see changed in their report was simply not appropriate because it could have introduced bias into a report that was supposed to be independent. 

The report is final

Whatever the problems in its making, the EIS/EIR is now final. Whether it is ever used as the basis for a decision to implement and fund the KBRA and KHSA, however, depends not on Interior but on Congress. That is the case because what both deals propose is outside the scope of the normal legal and administrative processes which apply to dams, federal water management and endangered species. Said another way, what Interior and other federal agencies want to do with the KHSA and KBRA is beyond the authority those agencies possess under the foundational laws which govern them.

Looked at another way, however, the EIS/EIR process has now provided the public, decision makers and the public itself with a wealth of newly integrated scientific, economic and social analysis which should enable us to better understand the impacts of these two complex and controversial deals – the KHSA and KBRA.

Well, almost.

The Final EIS/EIR does include analysis and assessment of impacts which are likely if the KHSA is implemented. With respect to the KBRA, however, we get the assessment without the corresponding analysis. That is because Interior chose to consider the KBRA programmatically. Programmatically is bureaucracy speak for deferring real analysis to what is know as the project phase, i.e. the time at which a component of the KBRA is ready to be implemented.

There are a couple of problems with Interior's programmatic approach. For one thing, many aspects of the KBRA are already being implemented by the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal agencies. Deferring analysis of actions that are already being implemented looks a lot like intentionally avoiding the analysis.

Assessing KBRA impacts in the Final EIS/EIR without the benefit of analysis means that the assessment and its conclusions are based on assumptions which may or may not correspond to reality. In numerous instances  KBRA provisions are assessed as “positive” and “beneficial” without any real analysis to back up the assertions.
Here are a three examples gleaned from many found in the Final EIS/EIR:

Example #1:

           The FEIS (Vol. I, 3.2-143) states: “If Upper Klamath NWR dries more frequently in the summer and fall, but for shorter periods that allow wetlands soil to remain wet in the root zone below the water level, the breakdown of peat soils may be minimized if not completely negated. Aldous et al. (2005) tested different hydrologic treatments for cores from undisturbed and restored wetlands around Upper Klamath Lake. If wetlands were allowed to remain moist, rather than dry completely, the release of phosphorus was minimized, and the undisturbed wetlands, which included Upper Klamath NWR, effectively had no phosphorus release. Because KBRA-flows and their effects on Upper Klamath Lake water elevation cannot be conclusively predicted at this time, it is not possible to determine whether the NWR wetlands or their soils would remain moist even if they are drained more frequently, which would minimize phosphorus release, or if they would dry out significantly more, which could foster some phosphorus release.”

          That sounds reasonable; but in reality the impact of the KBRA on how often Upper Klamath NWR dries out has already been demonstrated. For the past three water years, the Bureau of Reclamation has implemented what is essentially the KBRA approach to water management. Each time it has dried out – or in the case of 2013 plans to dry out – Upper Klamath NWR. The impacts of what is essentially the KBRA's approach to water management on phosphorus release to Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River could have been analyzed and disclosed using real life examples of KBRA water management, but that is not what those in charge of the EIS/EIR chose to do.

In accordance with the KBRA's water management scheme, 
the Bureau of Reclamation has dewatered Upper Klamath NWR 
 every year since the deal was signed  

Example #2:

          “...the Federal Team for the Secretarial Determination needed to incorporate several assumptions into the KBRA hydrology model simulations that attempt to provide adequate protections for anadromous fish and suckers that may be representative of potential recommendations by the TAT in the future that would include additional conservation measures that could be anticipated through implementation of a Drought Plan in critically dry water years. To meet these requirements the following assumptions, which are also described in Appendix E of Reclamation (2011a), were incorporated into the KBRA flow simulations:
     x Incorporation of a minimum flow of 100 cfs at Link River to provide adequate passage through the fish ladder and stream channel. x Incorporation of a minimum flow at Keno Dam of 300 cfs to provide adequate fish passage.
     x Minor adjustment of KBRA flow targets for use in the hydrology model for the time steps from July 1 through the end of September to improve flow conditions for adult migration and reduce the potential for fish die off. The changes that were implemented include reducing the target from 921 to 840 cfs for July 1 to 15, increasing the target from 806 to 840 cfs for July 16 to 31, increasing the target from 895 to 1110 cfs in August, and increasing the targets from 1010 to 1110 cfs in September.
     x Incorporation of minimum Ecological Base Flow (EBF) levels during the periods from March 1 through June 30 and during the months of August and September. The EBF volumes are those proposed by the Hardy Phase II 95% exceedence flow levels.
     x Incorporation of pulse flows into the disaggregated daily data to realize potential benefits of these flows to reduce disease infection rates through disruption of the parasite’s life cycle.
     x Minor adjustment to the flow targets for the month of March for water years represented by the 70% Exceedence. These adjustments include reductions in the targets from 2358 to 2085 cfs (March 1-15) and from 2343 to 2149 cfs (March 16-31). The change is consistent with rate of change for wetter water years.
     x Incorporation of minimum base flows of 800 cfs during the months of October through February. The minimum of 800 cfs is considered to be necessary to prevent adverse impacts to salmonids during the winter months.
     x Redistribution of irrigation and refuge supplies during shortage years to reflect KBRA language. KPSIM does adjustments on annual basis as a post process. Monthly adjustments are done as a post process in a workbook by the data manager which runs both models.
     x Minor adjustments were made to UKL elevation criteria in association with
shortage adjustments.
     x Net evaporation and riparian evapotranspiration gain was added.
     x A method was implemented to create imperfect knowledge of forecasts. Because operational decisions are made based upon forecasts and not perfect knowledge of future flows, it is necessary to simulate this process in the model."
           As in the example above, Interior could have assessed the KBRA's impacts on ESA threatened salmon and ESA endangered suckers using two years of data on  ACTUAL water management in accordance with the KBRA water management priorities. That management has included cuts to minimum flows in the Klamath River and the draining of Tule Lake below levels known to protect endangered suckers. None of the things Interior "assumes" would have been done was actually done during either of those years.

          Instead of using available data, Interior officials chose to assess KBRA impacts on salmon and suckers using not one, not two but ten separate “assumptions” about the effects KBRA water management is likely to have. Those ten assumptions are all favorable to the KBRA water management scheme; they make it appear as if implementing the KBRA is positive for salmon and suckers. The problem is that several of the assumptions are in conflict with what has actually occurred as the Bureau of Reclamation implemented the KBRA approach to water management.

          This is the most blatant manipulation KlamBlog found in the Final EIS/EIR. It took ten salubrious assumptions to make the KBRA appear to be favorable for threatened salmon and endangers suckers. In the real world salmon and suckers have already suffered under KBRA management; if Congress authorizes and funds the KBRA, they will suffer even more. 

Example #3:

           “The KBRA’s incremental contribution to the cumulative effects on water quality would be minimal in the short term and would generally be beneficial in the long term. In the short term, some of the KBRA actions could require construction activities that would have the potential to adversely affect water quality. However, best management practices would be implemented to reduce or avoid water quality impacts. In the long term, the KBRA actions are intended to be beneficial to water quality by improving water temperatures, reducing fine sediment and nutrient inputs, and increasing dissolved oxygen levels. The KBRA’s incremental contribution to the significant cumulative effects on water quality would not be cumulatively considerable in the short term and would be beneficial in the long term.”

           In this example the KBRA's impacts on water quality are assumed to be positive. There is no analysis underlying the salubrious assumption; that is, once again, deferred to some future time. But the assessment of the KBRA's impacts is not deferred; it is assessed as “beneficial” based on salubrious assumptions rather than data and analysis. 

Klamath science politicized

These three examples – along with many others which can be found within the Final EIS-EIR - demonstrate what KlamBlog believes has been one of the most tragic developments emerging within the Klamath River Basin in recent years. Beginning with vicious attacks on independent science reviews conducted by the National Research Council in 2004 and 2008, Klamath Science has been increasingly politicized. In recent years science has too often been turned into a political instrument to be manipulated for purposes of power and control rather than an integral process of discovery and application.
The National Research Council (NRC) is the study arm of this nation's highest scientific body – the National Academy of Sciences. In 2004 and again in 2008 the NRC was asked to independently assess aspects of Klamath Science. The first NRC report was used extensively in the EIS/EIR as a source for facts about aquatic species. However, that reports recommendations were neither mentioned nor analyzed.
The 2008 NRC review received even less attention from Final EIS/EIR authors; it is mentioned in the Final EIS/EIR exactly twice. Most importantly, the key recommendation of the second NRC science panel is neither mentioned, nor analyzed, nor considered.

The 2008 NRC panel stated unequivocally that a “basin-wide” flow assessment was needed in order to properly determine flow needs for salmon and other species. Like the creators of the KBRA, the creators of the Final EIS/EIR ignored that key recommendation because it did not fit their per-determined outcome – declaring the KBRA to be of overwhelming benefit to the environment while avoiding any real analysis of that deal's real, present and anticipated impacts.
Analysis of those real impacts – impacts which have already resulted in the death of tens of thousands of migrating waterfowl, drastic cuts to endangered sucker habitat, and cuts to Klamath River flows rendering them significantly below the minimum needed to provide for salmon – is, instead, “deferred” to some future time.

How convenient!

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