Friday, September 23, 2011

Court Reprimands Government Scientists

In an extraordinary rebuke, a judge in the smelt vs water trial takes scientists from the Department of Interior to task, reported in this article from the New York Times, a must read in the slow unraveling of the environmentalist movement.

An excerpt.

“…this week, two Interior fish biologists were excoriated as deceitful zealots in an unusual diatribe by a federal judge, Oliver W. Wanger.

“The two scientists’ testimony has been a crucial element in a lawsuit over who gets how much of California’s fresh water.

“The scientists, Frederick V. Feyrer of the Bureau of Reclamation and Jennifer M. Norris of the Fish and Wildlife Service, have testified about what habitat must be protected to save the endangered delta smelt, a small minnow-like fish. The smelt’s populations have been decimated in the decades since the delta where the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers meet was re-engineered to send water to farms and cities in southern California.

“The scientists testified that by flushing more fresh water from the Sacramento River to the briny eastern marshes that open out to San Francisco Bay, the smelt, which prefers lower salinity, will have access to more habitat, which it needs to survive and reproduce.

“The area of ideal salinity for the smelt shifts back and forth, eastward and westward, depending on the time of year, the amount of rain and the decisions of federal and state water managers. (A fuller explanation with diagrams can be found at the Bay Delta Blog.)

“This zone of ideal salinity for young smelt to feed is known as the X2; the Interior Department had decided that in wet years like this one, it should be no farther than 46 miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge. The decision was challenged in the lawsuit by the state and agricultural water interests, which prefer that less go out to the bay.

“In a decision two weeks ago, Judge Wanger sent an Interior Department plan for water distribution that is intended to help protect the endangered delta smelt back for reworking.

“And on Monday, he detailed some of his thinking in open court in Fresno. His dissection of the scientists’ testimony is worth quoting at length.

“The court finds that Dr. Norris’s testimony, as it has been presented in this courtroom and now in her subsequent declarations, she may be a very reasonable person and she may be a good scientist, she may be honest, but she has not been honest with this court. I find her incredible as a witness. I find her testimony to be that of a zealot. I’m not overstating the case, I’m not being histrionic, I’m not being dramatic. I’ve never seen anything like it. And I’ve seen a few witnesses testify.”

“Judge Wanger had plenty more to say on Monday.

“The suggestion by Dr. Norris that the failure to implement X2 at 74 kilometers, that that’s going to end the delta smelt existence on the face of our planet is false. It is outrageous. It is contradicted by her own testimony, it is contradicted by Mr. Feyrer’s testimony, it’s contradicted by the most recent adaptive management plan review, it’s contradicted by the prior studies, it is — candidly, I’ve never seen anything like it.”