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SLDMWA-SWC Cover Letter to DOI Peer Reviewers

SLDMWA-SWC Cover Letter to DOI Peer Reviewers

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Published by Cannon Michael
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Published by: Cannon Michael on Jul 01, 2011
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San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority State Water Contractors
P.O. Box 2157Los Banos, CA 93635Phone: (209) 826-9696Fax: (209) 826-96981121 L St., Suite 1050Sacramento, CA 95814Phone: (916) 447-7357Fax: (916) 447-2734
June 27, 2011Ms. Denise ReedUniversity of New Orleans, Geology and Geophysics2000 Lakeshore DriveNew Orleans, LA 70122-3520Re: Peer Review of Second Draft Framework: Adaptive Management of Fall Outflow forDelta Smelt Protection and Water Supply ReliabilityDear Ms. Reed:The San Luis & Delta-
Mendota Water Authority and the State Water Contractors (“PublicWater Agencies”) understand that you have been selected as a peer reviewer of the United StatesBureau of Reclamation’s and the United States Fish and Wildlife’s Service’s (“FederalAgencies”) Second Draft Framework: Adaptive Management of Fall Outflow for Delta SmeltProtection and Water Supply Reliability (“Draft Adaptive Management Plan”). We thank you
for accepting this task.The purpose of this letter is to transmit to you certain scientific information and analysis thatbears upon your peer review, but which you may not have received from the Federal Agencies.This information and analysis primarily concerns the relationship, or lack thereof, between thegeographic location of Fall X2 and subsequent Delta smelt abundance, and whether the Fall X2
Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) will “avoid jeopardy,” and provide conservation
benefits to the species.In the context o
f your evaluation of the Fall X2 “experiment” or “adaptive management” to
determine if the Draft Adaptive Management Plan follows well established scientific protocols,the Public Water Agencies urge you to consider the scientific appropriateness of the FederalAgencies fundamental assumption that the Fall X2 action is biologically beneficial. In thepursuit of defensible science, the issue of experimental design and underlying scientificassumptions cannot be separated.We agree with the statement in the Draft Adaptive Management Plan that an essentialprerequisite for implementation of an adaptive management action, as opposed to an RPA, is that
“the management approach, including the manner in which the alternatives are deployed for 
study,
must provide necessary conservation benefits to delta smelt 
.” (Draft Adaptive
 
Ms. Denise ReedJune 27, 2011Page 2Management Plan at p. 40) (Emphasis added). If there is substantial evidence that a proposedadaptive management action will not provide such benefits, then the management action shouldnot be implemented, particularly if there are alternative means to investigate the scientific issuesthat the management action proposes to address.The Draft Management Plan purports to summarize the state of the science regarding fall X2including the use of Fall X2 as a surrogate for Delta smelt habitat, the relationship between FallX2 and the distribution of smelt, and the effect of Fall X2 location on subsequent abundance (pp.2-16). The Draft Management Plan contends that while it may not be easily detectable, (p. 18),implementation of Fall X2 this year at the 74 kilometer location will provide substantial
conservation benefits. See p. 40 (“We have relied on the analysis, discussion, and literature cited
earlier in this document to conclude that although there are important uncertainties associatedwith the outflow prescription in the RPA,
it is almost certain to provide improved fall habitat conditions for delta smelt and likely to result in better recruitment.
” (Emphasis added).
The Public Water Agencies believe that the Federal Agencies have exaggerated the potential
 benefits of the proposed actions because the Draft Adaptive Management Plan’s description of 
the science regarding Fall X2 is neither complete nor accurate. The Federal Agencies conclude,
without explanation, that the Draft Adaptive Management Plan “implements criticalrecommendations” contained in the National Research Council’s (NRC) critique of the Fall X2
RPA,
 A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water Management Effects on
Threatened and Endangered Fishes in California’s Bay
 Delta
(March 2010). (Plan at p. 2.)That NRC report stated:The controversy about the [Fall X2] action arises from the poor and sometimesconfounding relationship between indirect measures of delta smelt population indices andX2. The weak statistical relationship between the location of X2 and the size of smeltpopulations makes the justification for this action difficult to understand.(pp. 40-41).The NRC report went on to describe how th
e Fall X2 action was “based on a series of linkedstatistical analyses … with each step being uncertain. The relationships are correlative with
substantial variance being left unexplained at each step. The action also may have high waterrequirements and
may adversely affect salmon and steelhead under some conditions… As a
result, how specific X2 targets were chosen and their likely beneficial effects need further
clarification.” (p. 41) The NRC report also found that independent peer review of the Fall
X2
management action was needed because of “the uncertainty about the biological effectiveness of the action and its high water requirements.” (
 Id 
.)Dr. Kenneth Burnham, a widely-recognized expert in ecological sampling and data analysis,discusses in the accompanying declaration both the statistical issue identified by the NRC, aswell as other methodological flaws in the studies by Mr. Frederick Feyrer which provide the corescientific justification for the Fall X2 management action. Dr. Burnham, who spent more than30 years as a statistician and senior scientist in the U.S. Department of the Interior and is a co-
 
Ms. Denise ReedJune 27, 2011Page 3author of the seminal work, Burnham, K. P. and D. R. Anderson,
 Model Selection and  Multimodel Inference: A Practical Information-Theoretical Approach
(2d Ed. 2002). Springer-Verlag, reviewed the Feyrer work that the Federal Agencies rely upon in the Draft ManagementPlan, and concluded:Based on my review of the available data analyses, the analyses of smelt abiotic habitat inFeyrer (2007), Feyrer (2008) and Feyrer (2010) are fundamentally flawed, and cannotproperly be used to estimate the effect of changes in X2 management on smelt habitat
volume, which was the intended purpose. However, even if Mr. Feyrer’s analyses could
be used to predict changes in the amount of available abiotic habitat for smelt, there is nostatistical evidence that changes in X2 have any effect on smelt abundance. More recentstudies, such as Kimmerer (2009) and Maunder and Deriso (2011) show that X2 is notrelevant to smelt abundance, and that other factors, such as food supply, are most likely
driving changes in the smelt’s population level.
 Declaration of Dr. Kenneth P. Burnham in Support of Plaintiffs
1
Motion for InjunctiveRelief, ¶ 39.The Draft Adaptive
Management Plan’s science summary also does not disclose the Maunder 
and Deriso (2011) article (cited by Burnham), that is in press at the Canadian Journal of Fisheriesand Aquatic Sciences. That article describes the state-space multi-stage life cycle model fordelta smelt developed by Drs Maunder and Deriso, which analyzes the impact on abundance of various environmental factors, including the location of Fall X2. (See attached Declaration of Dr.
Richard B. Deriso in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for In
 junctive Relief, and Ex. A thereto).Using this peer-
reviewed life cycle model, Dr. Deriso concludes that: “there is no statisticalsupport for the proposition that the location of X2 drives changes in smelt abundance.” (Id., ¶
5).
2
 Dr. Charles Hanson recently analyzed delta smelt and zooplankton abundance data collected in
various surveys to test the hypothesis that Fall X2 location will increase the delta smelt’sdistribution, improve its survival, enhance the species’ reproduction, and increase the a
vailabilityof delta smelt food resources. After conducting that analysis, Dr. Hanson concluded:[D]ata from the Fall Midwater Trawl (FMWT) survey, the 20 mm survey, and SummerTownet (STN) survey fail to show a correlation between the location of Fall X2 and deltasmelt distribution, delta smelt survival, delta smelt reproduction or the availability of delta smelt food sources. To the contrary, the best available data show that delta smelt
1
The Plaintiffs in the Consolidated Delta Smelt Cases are San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, State Water Contractors,Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Stewart Jasper Orchards, and Family FarmAlliance.
2
The Maunder and Deriso life cycle modeling manuscript was made available to the Federal Agencies well before the DraftAdaptive Management Plan materials were submitted to the peer review panel. Drs. Maunder and Deriso presented their modelto the federal agency biologists in August 2010 during the Bay Delta Conservation Plan
(“BDCP”) Theme Team meetings; to thelarger scientific community at the Estuarine Ecology Team (“EET”) meeting in November 2010; and to the state and federalagency biologists at a Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) hosted event for the BDCP in April 2
011.

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