Dear Whistleblower, You’re Fired

April 20, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

Dear Whistleblower, You’re Fired


Dr. Paul R. Houser is the whistleblower who was recently fired by the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) for publicly expressing his concerns regarding the integrity of the science being used to justify the removal of the four PacifiCorp hydroelectric dams on the Klamath river.

Houser is a PhD professor that teaches advanced degrees at George Mason University. He worked for three years as an award winning scientist for the United States Geological Survey and for eight years at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center studying the hydrometerology of outer space. He has written one of the largest portfolios of peer reviewed and refereed scientific papers that I have ever seen attributed to a single scientist.

Dr. Houser was employed by the Bureau in April of 2011 to serve as the agency’s top ranked scientist and was one of the highest ranking scientists in the entire federal government. He was hired to be the Bureau’s Science Advisor and Scientific Integrity Officer. It was his job to review and insure the scientific veracity, honesty, reliability and reproducibility of the agency’s scientific conclusions and publications.

Dr. Houser’s first allegation is intentional falsification motivated by Secretary Salazar’s 2009 public statement that the Klamath Dam removal “will not fail” indicating a predetermined intention to issue a Secretarial determination in favor of removing the four dams on the Klamath River. He alleges this intention to spin or incompletely report the scientific results was later confirmed by his supervisory Deputy Commissioner’s declaratory statement that “the Secretary wants to remove those dams”. He further states that the Summary of Key Conclusions: Draft EIS/EIR and Related Scientific/Technical Reports “intentionally distorts and generally presents a biased view of the Klamath River dam removal benefits. It intends to present only the positive, without the uncertainties or negatives. This is ascertained by comparing the summary with the underlying Klamath River Expert Panel Reports compiled by Atkins”.

Specific examples include:

Climate changes are projected to play an important role in fish recovery but climate change is never mentioned in the summary.

The summary section on Chinook Salmon recovery projects an 81.4 percent recovery, but says nothing about the nine contingencies summarized in a June 13, 2011, Klamath River Expert Panel Final Report that could completely negate that projected recovery.

The summary states that Coho salmon reclaim 68 miles of habitat but says nothing about the Klamath River Expert Panel Report stating that the difference between the proposed action and current conditions is expected to be small especially in the short term. Intentionally omitting information in the summary distorts and falsifies the science.

The summary states that dam removal will likely reduce salmon disease, but does not properly state the Klamath River Expert Panel Final Report concern about the very high uncertainty of the conclusions.

The summary also spins an optimistic outlook for Steelhead trout, providing access to 420 miles of historic habitat but does not adequately mention the Klamath River Expert Panel Final Report findings that this success would be contingent on improving water quality to meet the standards of the Total Maximum Daily load on the Klamath River. Failure to meet those unattainable standards would result in no detectable response.

Several other Bureau employees confirmed Dr. Houser’s stated concerns and one Assistant Regional Director specifically agreed that the summary lacked integrity and presented a biased description to the public. He also expressed deep concern that the Bureau’s attorneys were so heavily involved in writing the scientific reports!

Dr. Houser’s second allegation accuses the Bureau of “intentionally circumventing policy that ensures the integrity of science and scholarship and actions that comprise scientific and scholarly integrity”. He alleges that when he made his concerns known to the Bureau’s press officer and to his supervisors those concerns were not only substantially ignored but significant efforts were made to suppress those concerns from the public. Dr. Houser’s stated concerns were not substantially included in the Bureau’s published summary. Further, he was repeatedly advised to not transmit his report allegations by ‘discoverable record’ email. In fact, he specifically alleges that the Deputy Area Manager, Klamath Basin Area Office, Bureau of Reclamation “pointed out that the Klamath River dam removal is not my job, and warned against creating discoverable records”.

Dr. Houser “was concerned if the department was summarizing the science in a biased manner, that the same bias may infuse the March 2012 Klamath River dam removal Secretarial determination”. He alleges that when he tried to do the job that he was hired to do his report was ignored, suppressed and denigrated. Further, he was eventually fired for submitted his report in a “discoverable record” that would be subject of Freedom of Information Act disclosure.

Department of Interior Secretary Salazar indefinitely postponed his Secretarial determination on the Monday following the Friday public disclosure of Dr. Houser’s allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct and reprisal.

The Bureau had previously commissioned another report on the Klamath River dams by Camp, Dresser, and Mckee, Inc. entitled “Evaluation and Determination of Potential Liability Associated with the Decommissioning and removal of the Four Hydroelectric Dams on the Klamath River by Any Agent”. In my opinion, the very many potentially significant adverse findings in that report also have been suppressed, ignored, and denigrated by the Bureau.

Dr. Houser’s report appears to describe a systemic culture of intentional falsification of scientific findings within the Bureau for the purpose of confirming the validity of predetermined political intentions. He describes a culture that fears to challenge that ethos for trepidation of reprisal and fear of being fired and prevented from finding further government employment. He describes a near complete nullification of the true scientific method where challenges are invited and freely and truthfully answered. How can a valid peer review process survive in the chilling culture that he describes?

I believe that no less than a full Congressional hearing of this matter is warranted wherein the actors in these alleged activities are subpoenaed to testify under oath and penalty of perjury.

Filed in: Klamath

Dr. Paul R. Houser

About the Author (Author Profile)

Dr. Houser in an internationally recognized expert in local to global land surface-atmospheric remote sensing, in-situ observation and numerical simulation, development and application of hydrologic data assimilation methods, scientific integrity and policy, and global water and energy cycling. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Hydrology and Water Resources from the University of Arizona in 1992 and 1996 respectively. Dr. Houser's previous experience includes internships at the U.S. Geological Survey and at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Houser joined the NASA-GSFC Hydrological Sciences Branch and the Data Assimilation Office (DAO/GMAO) in 1997, served as manager of NASA’s Land Surface Hydrology Program, and served as branch head of the Hydrological Science Branch. In 2005, he joined the George Mason University Climate Dynamics Program and the Geography and Geoinformation Sciences Department as Professor of Global Hydrology, and formed CREW (the Center for Research for Environment and Water). Dr. Houser has also teamed with groundwater development and exploration companies (EarthWater Global and Geovesi) and has served as Science Advisor to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Dr. Houser has led numerous scientific contributions, including the development of Land Data Assimilation Systems (LDAS), the Hydrospheric States Mission (Hydros/SMAP), the Land Information System (LIS), the NASA Energy and Water cycle Study (NEWS), and the Water Cycle Solutions Network (WaterNet).

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