- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

The Bush administration yesterday ordered a review of a key study that found flawed science was used to shut off water to hundreds of farmers in California and Oregon, ostensibly to protect endangered species.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study said there is "no sound scientific basis" that high levels of water in Klamath Lake and Klamath River would protect sucker fish and coho salmon.
It directly counters arguments by federal agencies who said the species could only be protected if water was shut off to 1,400 irrigators in California and Oregon. The drought devastated the local economy.
Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton asked the NAS to review the initial studies conducted by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Services. She has ordered the heads of both agencies to evaluate the NAS critique and report back to her in 10 days.
"I am concerned by the weaknesses revealed by the National Academy of Sciences study," Mrs. Norton said. "The NAS study indicates that there were flaws with respect to critical components of the analysis in the biological opinions and assessments."
"By challenging the analysis, the NAS study will affect our decision-making process for this year and future years," Mrs. Norton said.
The loss of water cost the regional economy $134 million, said a report issued last month by the Oregon State University and University of California at Berkeley.
Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon Republican, said the federal government leveled "an economic sledgehammer on the community."
"This report exposes flawed decisions that were made in the name of protecting fish, which forced family farmers and ranchers to go bankrupt and brought widespread harm to the economic vitality of the entire Klamath community," Mr. Walden said.
The federal scientists were acting under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which must be reformed, said Rep. James V. Hansen, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Resources Committee.
"This latest travesty in the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act is one more nail in the coffin of that broken law," Mr. Hansen said. "The ESA has become a wrecking ball in this country, devastating dreams, careers, personal finances and regional economies."
At least six farms have been auctioned off to repay debts and another 15 farms are expected to follow suit, said Bob Gasser, a local business owner and spokesman for users of the water.
"We are ecstatic about the study, but the problem I have is that I lost a lot of good neighbors and friends, including my next door neighbor who lost his farm of 30 years. Incomplete science took his livelihood, his home and his children's education," Mr. Gasser said.
The water war drew national attention when armed federal agents were called in to stop farmers from forcing open the headgates. However, the farmers succeded on four seperate occasions to release water to their parched fields.
"They were thirsty farmers, and their lives had been taken from them," Mr. Gasser said.
A spokesman for Sen. Gordon Smith said the Oregon Republican was pleased with the report's findings.
"He's been saying all along the science was suspect from the beginning. It shows the need to have peer review in decisions of this kind," said spokesman Chris Matthews.
Added Oregon resident Cheryl Dryer: "We've been trying to tell them that all along, but they wouldn't listen."

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