Siskiyou Daily News Letter: Whistleblowers deserve respect

May 30, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

Subject: Siskiyou Daily News Letter: Whistleblowers deserve respect


Whistleblowers deserve respect – Yreka, CA – Siskiyou Daily News


Whistleblowers deserve respect


By Felice Pace

Siskiyou Daily News

Letter  to the Editor

May 30, 2012


Etna, Calif. — There is an old saying which claims that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” As our society has become more complex, it has become easier for the powerful to hide their corrupt actions. And, as other democratic checks on power have become less effective, whistleblowers – those who risk their careers to stand up for truth in the face of government misconduct – have become critically important to our republic.
These whistleblowers deserve our respect because what they have done requires courage. Klamath whistleblower Paul Houser is an example. Houser stood up when others cowered; for that he deserves our respect. He revealed bias in an important government process – the dam removal/KBRA EIS/EIR – for that he deserves our thanks.
It is important, however, to keep Dr. Houser’s claims in perspective. Houser did not indict the science behind the EIS/EIR. Rather he revealed that those managing the process chose to spin that science in order to curry favor with their boss – Secretary of Interior Ken Salizar.
The spinning of Klamath science and the fawning bias of those who headed the EIS/EIR team should have been evident to anyone who followed the process closely. KlamBlog, for example, published posts in August 2009, April and November 2010 and in July 2011, which disclosed how Klamath science was being spun by various interests and which bemoaned the resulting loss of integrity. You can find those posts on line.
I personally wrote to government peer reviewers about how EIS/EIR leaders and certain KBRA “parties” pressured the Chinook expert science panel to sanitize their final report. I also called peer reviewers attention to how the summary report had been spun.
In their May 15 “Valley View” columns, however, SDN columnists Liz Bowen and Marcia Armstrong misrepresent Dr. Hauser’s whistleblower compliant. Bowen writes of the “flawed science proposed by the Department of Interior” and Armstrong speaks about “manipulated science.” That is serious overreach: the science done and reviewed in connection with the EIS/EIR is good science; it was not manipulated. What is at fault is not the science but the biased and self-serving manner in which that science was spun by agency bureaucrats currying favor with superiors.
When it comes to spinning science, Bowen and Armstrong present clear cases of  “the pot calling the kettle black.” They want to use Dr. Hauser to scuttle the KHSA and they are apparently willing to spin his whistleblower allegations to accomplish that end. The willingness of Klamath River Basin opponents to spin science is not in the interest of the river, Klamath, Salmon or Klamath River communities.
I want to scuttle the KHSA too but not to save obsolete dams. If we are able to kill the KHSA and get back to the normal FERC process, there will be an agreement to remove the dams which will not be a sweetheart deal for PacifiCorp and which will not include all the mischief embodied in the KBRA Water Deal. The dams will come out through the FERC process because they are old, obsolete and, if relicensed with modern requirements, would lose multiple-millions of dollars each year for owner PacifiCorp. In the FERC process, PacifiCorp shareholders and ratepayers will bear the cost of removal – California and federal taxpayers will not be forced to contribute.
My advice to SDN readers is to beware of all those who are willing to spin science for political gain. And please remember that real science does not give absolute answers. Scientists can tell us the probability (likelihood) that a discrete action (like dam removal) will have certain effects, but it cannot abolish uncertainty about the consequences of our decisions. Science can, and should, inform natural resource decisions, but it cannot guarantee that those decisions will be wise or that unforeseen effects will not occur.



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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