How the Church of Flow Deals with Heretics

“Our political discourse has become so jejune that the natural habits of a powerful mind—sharp reasoning and imaginative rhetoric—are mistaken for petulant temperament.” John McGinniss (1997).101

From the moment my clients engaged a fisheries scientist in the Pacific Northwest, that scientist was called a "biostitute". Many independent scientists, sensitive to the political ramifications of taking money from electricity interests, refused to be hired by my clients. (Later, as they grew more and more disgusted at the oppression of science by opponents of positions we were asserting, some changed their minds, and were willing to work for us.)

But mere ad hominem attacks are not enough of a weapon to silence critics. Some, like Dr. Anderson, are even spurred to greater efforts. The real way to silence a scientist is to cut off his or her funding. There are few scientists who can afford to work on anything they want to. They must get grants to conduct their research. And the grant money comes from the government. No private entity could or would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on salmon research.

Operating through the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority (CBFWA), the salmon managers prioritized spending for fiscal year 1997 in a way that ensured that BPA would fund no projects likely to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy. CBFWA's adverse effects on the scientific process are common knowledge in the scentific community. One Bonneville Power Administration employee told fisheries consultant Steve Cramer, "[a]s you know, the CBFWA prioritization has greatly impacted our ability to fund independent analyses/reviews which are necessary for responsible stewardship and management of natural resources".102 He expressed the hope that independent scientific efforts "will help to swing the pendulum back towards technical science-based rather than politically based water management to benefit Columbia River fisheries resources".103

Dr. Anderson is a chief target of the salmon managers, who have never forgiven him for producing CRiSP runs that showed that their salmon measures made no sense, and for proving that their FLUSH model made no sense either. By August of 1996, the Salmon Managers had formally declared that they "do not support the use of CRiSP as a management decisionmaking tool", and that the model had "sufficient unresolved problems including input parameters, their structure, and predictive capabilities, that preclude its use as a basis for management decisions".104 As Dr. Anderson aptly responded, their opposition to CRiSP was "a political statement, not a scientific one".105

By the spring of 1997, the state and tribal fishery managers had prepped Joyce Cohen, one of Oregon’s two representatives on the Northwest Power Planning Council, to make an extraordinary public attack on Dr. Anderson during a conference to present scientific research results associated with the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program. She attacked his work as “redundant”. When he told her that was a lie, she began shaking a fist in his face and got so angry observers thought she would strike him.

The state and tribal fishery managers have also attacked John Skalski, a professor of biological statistics at the University of Washington, who has produced a model forecasting salmon detections at dams that is far more accurate than the model used by the fishery agencies. He was also instrumental in designing the PIT-tag studies that proved survival through reservoirs was far higher than commonly supposed. His response:

“On multiple occasions, we have invited CBFWA personnel to attend presentations, seminars and workshops—and they have refused. We have tried to work with the [Fish Passage Center] personnel: we have asked to see their alleged predictive approaches and when given the opportunity, to compare methods head-to-head. We have shown in our 1994 BPA annual report how their methods have an error rate many times that of the PIT-forecaster. We have yet to see any documentation or any post-season evaluation of their capabilities.”

“The bottom line is that we have demonstrated the accuracy and precision of our run timing predictions over the last three years. The greater issue is whether we as a community want informed resource decisions based on the best available science or politics to govern the stewardship of Pacific salmon.” 106

State and tribal harvest managers, wasting funds from the Bonneville Power Administration, continue to produce reams of useless computer projections. Typically they support the state and tribal policy positions, and on the rare occasions when they don’t, they are simply ignored. The state and tribal community of fishery managers has made its choice: politics must not only govern the stewardship of Pacific salmon, but also the scientific process.

101 J. McGinnis, “Courtroom Arguments”, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 4, 1997, at A16 (reviewing A Matter of Interpretation by Antonin Scalia).

102 E-mail, P. Poe to S. Cramer, Aug. 8, 1996.

103 Id.

104 Memo, S. Pettit, J. Nielsen, R. Boyce, M. Yoshinaka, and R. Heineth to C. Henriksen, Aug. 2, 1996, at 5.

105 E-mail, J. Anderson to C. Henricksen, August 6, 1996.

106 Reprinted in Clearing Up, Aug. 12, 1996, at 7.

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