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Ex-official criticizes Klamath scientific integrity review

Published on April 3, 2013 3:01AM

Last changed on May 1, 2013 2:50PM




Capital Press

YREKA, Calif. - A former U.S. Bureau of Reclamation senior science adviser is criticizing the Interior Department's review of his scientific integrity complaint about the Klamath River dam removal process.

Paul Houser, who reached a settlement with the government in December after claiming he was fired last year for speaking out, argues the government has failed to evaluate the full scope of his complaint.

Houser alleged last year that officials wrote a summary and news release to elicit support for dam removal while downplaying negative remarks from scientists that were in the full reports.

A panel assembled to investigate Houser's allegations reported it did not find evidence that a communications official had "deviated from the standard practice" of the department, although it did conclude "the issue of how scientific uncertainty is represented in press releases needs to be addressed" by officials.

"The end result is that my scientific integrity complaint has been dismissed without being fully investigated or even cogently considered, and continues the department's record of never finding itself in violation of its own scientific integrity policy," Houser wrote in a rebuttal.

Houser, 42, became a darling of Klamath dam removal opponents and tea party activists after he went public about his February 2012 departure from Reclamation, over which he filed federal whistleblower and scientific-integrity complaints.

In a speech to a local group here last May, he said it appeared top Interior officials had already decided they wanted the dams out and were seeking the science to back up their decision.

A George Mason University professor and former National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist, Houser was hired by the bureau in 2011 to oversee the scientific studies on the Klamath project, which would include the removal of four dams as well as numerous river-restoration efforts.

Houser reached a settlement with the agency over his whistleblower complaint after mediation with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. Terms of the agreement required that neither side disclose specifics about the outcome.

Houser's allegations that scientific data about the project was manipulated for political purposes was investigated separately. Interior officials have said a scientific integrity website was added to demonstrate the department's commitment to transparency.

Agency spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw declined to comment about Houser's rebuttal, saying in an email the panel's report "really should speak for itself."


Summary of scientific integrity panel report: http://www.doi.gov/scientificintegrity/closed-cases.cfm

Paul Houser rebuttal: http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/doi/3_25_13_Houser_rebuttal.pdf


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