Federal Biologist Quits Over Klamath Kill
.c The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A federal biologist who said his team's advice was
illegally ignored prior to a massive 2002 Klamath River fish kill has
resigned, accusing the government of politicizing scientific decision-making and
misleading the public.
Michael Kelly had sought federal whistleblower protection after he complained
the Bush administration violated the Endangered Species Act by pressuring for
altered scientific findings by the review team he led for the National Marine
Fisheries Service, now NOAA Fisheries.
``My efforts were ultimately unproductive,'' Kelly laments in his resignation
letter, released Wednesday through Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility, which represented Kelly in the whistleblower case first reported by
The Associated Press. ``Threatened coho salmon in the Klamath basin still do
not have adequate flow conditions to assure their survival.''
Kelly alleged his team's recommendations were twice rejected as the U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation imposed lower water levels than were scientifically
California wildlife officials, environmentalists, fishermen and Indian tribes
blame low water levels for the death of 33,000 salmon that fall, amounting to
nearly a quarter of the projected fall run in the river flowing from south
central Oregon through northwest California.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel declined to investigate Kelly's complaint,
saying it could neither prove ``gross mismanagement'' by NOAA Fisheries even
if the agency relied on conflicting science nor prove a cause-and-effect
relationship between the low water decision and the subsequent die-off.
Kelly's testimony has since been key in a federal court ruling overturning
the agency's long-term water flow plan for the Klamath, though a decision
allowing the government to proceed with its plans through 2008 is under appeal.
Kelly resigned from the agency's Arcata, Calif., office Friday after nine
years, saying Regional Manager Jim Lecky had again intervened in overturning his
finding in the latest project to which he was assigned. He feared a repeat of
his ethical predicament two years ago.
``It's pretty broad brush, the way he paints it,'' said NOAA Fisheries
spokesman Jim Milbury. ``Those are Mike's opinions and beliefs. I don't know that
they're shared by anyone else but him.'' The agency is bound by rules and
regulations that govern how it handles specific decisions, he said.
The latest project is a proposal by the California Department of Fish and
Game to rebuild a collapsed levee and re-establish a freshwater pond in what has
become a salt marsh-in-the mouth of the Eel River. Kelly found that the marsh
has become an important rearing area for young threatened chinook salmon and
He objects in his letter that the state agency appears to want to turn it
back into a freshwater pond mainly to concentrate ducks for convenient hunting.
Karen Kovacs, a senior state biologist supervisor, said the state manages the
2,200-acre Eel River Wildlife Area for all aquatic wildlife - freshwater and
saltwater - and to that end wants to re-establish a 120-acre pond that collapsed
six years ago, while leaving 200 acres as a salt marsh.
Kelly is the latest in a recent string of scientists to accuse the Bush
administration of substituting policy for science, charges the administration
In his Tuesday resignation letter, he accuses his agency of doing so in
recent decisions not to list the green sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act;
counting hatchery raised salmon along with wild salmon in protection decisions;
and an attempt, since blocked by a judge, to alter the definition of
On the Net:
Read Kelly's allegations in the Klamath water case-in-
Read the final biological opinion-in-
05/19/04 23:58 EDT
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