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14 A Scientific Advisory Board to Address the Salmon Problem Hi, GAPS IN KNOWLEDGE Previous chapters in this report summarize the great deal of knowledge that has been obtained about salmon-clearly enough to substantially improve their prospects for survival if applied wisely. Such information should be used to the fullest extent possible in implementation of projects, watershed planning, and other programs designed to assist the survival and sustainability of salmon. To simply wait for new research, new ideas, and new technology while continuing past practices that have adversely affected anadromous salmon is a mistake. Such a delay only serves to increase the demise of salmon and their ecosystems. Yet attempts to solve the salmon problem still are hampered by lack of knowledge. The list of central topics that we know too little about is surprisingly long. The topics include, for example, the survival of young fish between dams compared with their survival as they pass through and over dams; the relationship of survival of young fish to the flow rates of water in rivers; the effects on survival of various management practices, including logging, grazing, irrigation, agriculture, and use of hatcheries; the influence of ocean conditions on survival and growth of salmon; the degree to which salmon survival and growth in fresh- water and at sea are density-dependent; the effectiveness of transportation and altering flow regimes on dammed rivers in increasing survival of young salmon; the importance of predation in rivers and estuaries in survival of juveniles and adults; the effect of hatcheries on the number of fish returning to spawn, ocean survival, homing ability, and genetic diversity; where and when different popula- tions of salmon migrate in the ocean, and even the status of many populations of 348
A SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD TO ADDRESS THE SALMON PROBLEM 349 salmon; the effectiveness of management institutions; the bioregional relation- ship between metapopulations of salmon and populations of salmon fishers; the degree of public support for protection of wild salmon versus hatchery programs; the distribution of population and income from fishing by watershed; the relative importance of salmon fishing to community stability; and the relative importance of income from salmon fishing. Questions directly related to the survival of salmon in various freshwater habitats under various conditions could be answered by focused research in a relatively short time. Indeed, many of them should have been answered by now. Questions concerning long-term changes in environmental conditions in response to climatic and other natural fluctuations and questions concerning complex eco- logical interactions, especially at sea, are related to several types of research driven by many kinds of motivations in addition to interest in salmon. The committee believes that the greatest short-term gain in ability to protect salmon will come from focused research on freshwater survival especially of young salmon, although knowledge about long-term changes in environmental condi- tions and complex ecological interactions are also of great importance. A great deal of money has been spent on research over many years by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USAGE), the National Marine Fisheries Service, and other federal, state, and local agencies (about $70 million a year has been spent recently by BPA and USACE alone). The committee was therefore surprised to find so many gaps in basic scientific knowledge. Because there is much to be learned and money for research is finite, the research money that is available must be spent more effec- tively, especially given the urgency of the problem. Research of the kind needed to help improve the salmon situation must be related to policy and management, because informed policy and management decisions are needed. Although basic biological and physical information is needed, by itself it is not enough. Research must not be driven only by short-term politics or even appear to be so motivated, and research decisions must be made in an integrated way, with a coherent view of the general importance and urgency of what needs to be known and with communication among various research organizations and interest groups. In short, there needs to be more objective scientific guidance and planning for research undertaken within the policy con- text. The difficulties and controversies surrounding management of riverflows in the Columbia River provide a good example of the importance of objective scientific guidance. SCIENCE, RIVER FLOWS, AND UNCERTAINTY Chapter 9 demonstrated how important the dynamics of streamflow in the Columbia drainage are to the welfare of migrating juvenile salmon in the spring and summer. Before the dams were built, riverflows east of the Cascade Moun
350 UPSTREaM: SALMON AND SOCIE7YIN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST tains peaked sharply in the spring because of snowmelt. Salmon are adapted to this seasonal abundance of water. As spring flows have been increasingly im- pounded by dams and as the water has been forced through hydroelectric tur- bines, migrating fish have suffered accordingly. The question of how the Columbia River reservoir system can be operated to benefit fish is mainly an institutional one: How should policy choices be made over time to manage salmon populations while meeting other objectives? If policy choices are to be made, the uncertain relationship between salmon welfare and riverflow must be elucidated and must be compared with the economic welfare of human populations that use the river's waters for multiple purposes. Since the late 1970s, when the question of whether flows benefit fish arose (when the completion of the Snake River dams enabled river managers to elimi- nate spills of water over hydropower dams in most years), the problem has been addressed annually as information on natural flows has unfolded with the weather. That process has been frustrating for all participants. Forecasts of seasonal streamflows, on which operating decisions are based, are only modestly accurate before the time of maximum average snow accumulation (about April 1) and are little better than random guesses before about February 1. The inability to fore- cast streamflows forced decisions to be made that were in reality gambles about what would happen later in the water year. Gambles do not pay off all the time, and the various parties' differing goals fed conflict over how to place bets as data became available. What has not been widely recognized in the debate over how the reservoir system can and should be operated for multiple purposes (including fish) is the scientific basis of the decisions to be made with uncertain and incomplete infor- mation. The concept of burden of proof is familiar: In the absence of unequivo- cal information, how should a decision be made? The status quo is often pre- sumed to be appropriate unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. The discretionary judgment of recognized authorities is another basis for making a decision unless there are strong grounds to doubt the process or content of the judgment. The decline of salmon has challenged both those implications that the burden of proof should rest with those seeking change. Instead, statutory, policy, and political changes over the last quarter-century have often shifted the assump- tions: as salmon abundances continued to decrease, changes believed to assist the fish were sometimes adopted even in the absence of clear evidence that they would help. Such shifts in the Columbia River Basin have been at the heart of a program of protection and rebuilding that now costs several hundred million dollars per year, depending on the mountain snowpack and later spring and summer streamflow in any particular year. The costs are due in large part to modifications in dam operations that reduce income from the sale of hydropower. Resource allocations to salmon conservation elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, where dams are less important in the economics of water, have been proportionately
A SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD TO ADDRESS THE SALMON PROBLEM 351 lower. Nonetheless, as costs rose under the press of the Endangered Species Act, electric utilities, users of the Columbia's navigation channels, and others paying or expecting losses from involuntary reallocation of water mounted stiffening resistance. Because changes in the burden of proof have occurred incrementally in response to perceived emergencies, the scientific basis for considering the shifts has been obscured. The committee believes that a scientific perspective can illuminate difficult and contentious choices. The power of a test is important in judging the value of expensive and uncertain efforts to save declining salmon populations. In a rational process, the most-effective, least-expensive treatments are tried first; when two treatments differ in cost but are of equal effectiveness, the less-expensive treatment should be chosen. Rules like that appear not to have been followed in the Columbia. Instead, a prolonged battle over two approaches has been waged, one in which science has often been subordinated to politics. The first, advocated by fishery managers, has been to increase the flows of the Snake and mainstem Columbia during the juvenile-salmon migration season in an attempt to recreate the condi- tions in the natural river when migrating smelts took advantage of the spring snowmelt to make a rapid trip to the ocean. The second, championed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service, has been to transport migrating fish; juvenile fish are captured at one or more dams and taken in barges or trucks to below Bonneville, the lowest dam on the Columbia. Trans- portation is much less expensive because it does not require releasing impounded water in the spring, when power demand is relatively low and the natural supply of water is high because of the snowmelt. The question is whether transportation is biologically effective enough to be used instead of flow-augmentation. Trans- portation is used now in years of low flow when the available water would be inadequate to carry juveniles to the sea rapidly, and most smolts are transported at Snake River collector dams even when flows are above average, as in 1995. There is intense controversy about the relative effectiveness of transportation and flow augmentation in other than low-flow years (see Volkman and McConnaha 19931. The cost of releasing water to benefit fish, however, is so high that in all years the amounts of water released fall within the uncertainties of the existing data (Lee 1993a, Chapter 2~; that is, it is unclear whether the expen- sive releases have any biological effect. It would be logical to do experiments to measure the effectiveness of transportation and flow augmentation, but the way the controversy has developed undermines science. The effectiveness of flow augmentation is difficult to appraise because annual flow volume is determined by nature, not humans; in essence, the information comes at the rate of one data point per year. A compilation of studies done in the 1970s constitutes the only data set available (Sims and Ossiander 1981), and it is "sparse and unsatisfac- tory" (Volkman and McConnaha 1993:1256) in the view of all participants. The effectiveness of transportation is tested by capturing and releasing marked fish. That requires the cooperation of fishery managers, who have too often resisted,
352 UPSTREAM: SALMON AND SOCIETY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST fearing that the data would undermine their position in the debate. As a result of the combination of natural and social impediments, scientific understanding has improved little over the last decade as policy has moved toward increasingly expensive flow-augmentation measures of unknown effectiveness. Given the presence of endangered salmon populations in the Snake River, it might be appropriate to structure the burden of proof to favor possibly beneficial measures without waiting the decades needed to establish the magnitude of the benefits. But it is also important to assess the potential value of the steps that are taken through an assessment of the statistical power of the data available. That would illuminate the chances that transportation or flow augmentation would actually benefit fish, even though the benefits are not yet clearly in view; it would also identify the experiments likely to yield the most useful data. A recent study of the cost-effectiveness of various dam-mitigation options also concluded that studies of reach survival of smolts under several scenarios are essential (Paulsen et al. 1993~. The present committee has not done such an analysis. However, both this committee and the Snake River Salmon Recovery Team (1994) used information that, albeit incomplete, suggests that transportation improves smelts' survival. No other mitigation alternative proposal has data to support it as clearly. The Snake River Recovery Team's judgment that transportation is superior to other proposals to increase the migration speed of fish in the river has aroused contro- versy; the committee believes that science can clarify the boundaries of argu- ment, in particular by providing better information on travel-time-survival rela- tionships. It is important to clarify the boundaries of dispute so that all can be aware of how the burden of proof might be shifting. If the Recovery Team's judgment were to lead to a new status quo of relying mainly on transportation, then transportation implicitly would become the option to beat in the future. Given the uncertainties that still cloud our understanding of the benefits and costs of all the options, minds should remain open. In the absence of scientific measurements, however, burdens of proof had shifted onto the other users of river water, and it was inevitable that they would object with increasing vehemence. Gaining reliable knowledge of the relation- ship between salmon survival and river flows will take a long time; on that, all sides agree. Intense conflict throughout the learning period will inhibit or under- mine learning, as already occurred through the 1980s as test fish (fish used for experiments) were refused by the fishery-management agencies. Conflict is inevitable and can be constructive, but institutional arrangements are needed to protect the ability of science to illuminate and focus conflict. The latter point has been poorly understood and often overlooked in practice with consequences that have been expensive and probably biologically destructive.
A SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD TO ADDRESS THE SALMON PROBLEM 353 A SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD It will not be simple or inexpensive to establish a sounder basis for research. but there are well-established guidelines for doing it. The research must be and must be perceived to be objective, focused on the most important problems, scientifically sound, and free of political or policy bias. Few institutions can claim all those qualities on their own; most institutions that fund or conduct research have or are perceived to have vested interests in its outcome. Therefore, it is essential that research into the salmon problem in some way receive input from all relevant interest groups without being controlled or dominated by any of them. This committee recommends the establishment of a qualified, interdisci- plinary, highly visible scientific advisory board to advise on the coordination and planning of research activities and to review research results. The board must be adequately staffed and funded, should be as free as possible of political or finan- cial pressures, and should report at a high-enough level to prevent its recommen- dations from being easily ignored. Its reports should be available to the public. Such a board is necessary, but not sufficient; it will help only if there is a genuine commitment to solving the salmon problem and if the general institutional ar- rangements are improved. Although such a board on salmon research would incur costs for travel, lodging, staffing, and other items and would slow some research decisions, we are confident that its advantages would far outweigh its costs. Poor, or badly designed, or inappropriate research is worth little, even if it is done quickly. Therefore, we recommend that establishment of an independent scientific advi- sory board on Pacific Northwest salmon research be given the highest priority. Why a Scientific Advisory Board Is Needed It might not be immediately obvious why an independent scientific advisory board is needed, especially if management agencies pledge themselves to an adaptive management approach, i.e., an approach whose design includes the opportunity to learn from experience and adapt management regimes accordingly (an approach strongly favored by this committee). McAllister and Peterman (1992) and Walters et al. (1993) recently described some of the difficulties of the adaptive-management approach; we describe below a hypothetical situation that illustrates some of the difficulties that a management agency might face and illustrates the potential value of an advisory board. Suppose that an agency developed a management rule based on an explicit hypothesis, say, the hypothesis that increased river flow increases the survival of salmon smelts. One would expect the agency to emphasize protection of endan- gered populations while testing the effectiveness of alternatives in a reasoned and systematic fashion, making appropriate use of variations in natural conditions to provide experimental variation.
354 UPSTREAM: SALMON AND SOCIETY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST Such an experiment would take a long time to yield definitive results- perhaps decades, as Walters et al. (1993) described. Even with a clear exposition of the biological and ecological constraints that make such long periods neces- sary, there is considerable risk that the patience of the agency or others in the region would wear thin, that funding would become tight, or that conditions would change to make the situation seem to be a crisis and that pressure to change the course of action would result. Thus, the frailty of the approach lies not in science, but in the institutional supports for science: will human actors refrain from interfering with this experiment? Given the long periods that are required to learn effectively, the answer to that question must be in doubt. People who care about the outcome of an experiment will be tempted to intervene in the measuring process to skew the results in their favor. Science has safeguards to account for the self-interest of scientists, chiefly controls and repli- cation. If a scientific finding is valid, it will be replicated under the appropriate conditions. If an explanation is correct, the experimenter will have identified the minimal set of conditions that are necessary to achieve the predicted outcome, and changing one of the conditions will lead to some other result; that is the test of controls. Incorrect science, such as "cold" fusion, fails one or both tests. The difficulty in the hypothesis concerning salmon survival that our hypo- thetical agency might consider is that controls and replication are both extremely difficult or impossible to achieve. If the volume of river flow is the dominant independent variable, then in large measure nature determines how much water is available to be used by migrating salmon in a given year. Every river is unique- there is only one Rogue, only one Columbia, so controlled experimentation is in principle impossible. For those reasons, the principal institutional safeguards against the undue influence of human interest on science are weak or unavailable. The best approach to mitigate this difficulty is to separate interest from science, that is, to make the results of the experiment safe from the dictates of policy. And the best mechanism that we can recommend to achieve that is an independent, distinguished, and credible scientific advisory board. Experiments on mainstem survival-involving different experimental treat- ments, as they must-are likely to affect the amounts of river flow allocated to fish transport and the fraction of migrating juveniles intercepted for transporta- tion. This kind of adjustment is a common response to new information gained during adaptive experiments changing the mix of treatments, each supported or criticized by observers in accordance with the accumulating findings. But if the experiments lead to the discontinuation of augmented flows and spills for in-river migration or of other methods thought to increase survival (e.g., transportation, fishing regulations, or hatcheries), then one of today's hotly contested options would have been discarded. This outcome would touch off intense conflict. (Argyris and Schon t19781 called this kind of adjustment "double-loop learn- ing" the attempt to improve performance while allowing the objectives to evolve.) If the political actors expect a threat to any of the mitigation methods,
A SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD TO ADDRESS THE SALMON PROBLEM 355 such as in-river migration flows or barge transportation, they might try to derail the experiments. As budget crises, political changes, or other kinds of turbulence come and go, the experiments and a long enough series of their expensive yet crucial data sets seem less and less likely to survive unimpaired. An independent scientific advisory board could help to insulate the learning process from the defenders of each option for improving survival. Its presence and clear advice would allow the hypothetical agency to obtain an explicit agree- ment among all parties that inriver flows and spills, transportation, and all other established means of increasing fish survival will continue to be used throughout the period of experimentation unless it becomes clear to the scientific advisory board that the experimental results dictate a different course of action. The absence of such an agreement invites interference in the experiment; as time passes, such interference will be ever more harmful because it would contaminate an increasingly long and expensive data set. Requirements for an Effective Scientific Advisory Board Vesting authority in an independent scientific panel to redirect adaptive policies invites unaccountable decision-making that could become controversial if the decisions ignore the pleas of those who are seriously affected. Yet, para- doxically, the raison d'etre of the scientific advisory board is to allow scientific learning and analysis to occur independently of the political pressures of interest groups. That leads to two conclusions: the board must be truly independent, comprehensive, interdisciplinary, objective, and balanced; and the board cannot be expected to solve problems by itself. Its job is to increase the efficiency and quality of the science available to inform policy and management decisions. We have pointed out at great length that the salmon problem is to a large degree a human and institutional problem, and we have recommended institutional changes to help solve the problem (Chapter 133. The scientific advisory board must function in the context of institutions and must be seen to do so, or it will not be effective. In addition, many of the experiments needed will be expensive and time-consuming, and demands for different, perhaps less-expensive, experiments will arise. Some will perhaps argue for simultaneous experiments whose cost will exceed the available budget. What is needed is to make the agencies estab- lish common objectives, eliminate duplication, and establish mutually reinforc . . . sing long-range sustaining programs. It is important that the advisory board, without being authoritarian, have some authority, or at least a constituency. We recommend that the advisory board be responsible primarily to the major funders of salmon-related research in the region. Those funders should include the Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For the advisory board's advice to be effective, those agencies and any others that are
356 UPSTREAM: SALMON AND SOCIETY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST willing should agree to give careful consideration to its recommendations con- cerning research and other science-based activities and to provide public re- sponses to departures from those recommendations. We hope that other re- searchers and Sunders of research would also be able to benefit from the advisory board's advice. If science is to make effective contributions to salmon rehabilitation, experi- mental designs and their results must be publicly disseminated as soon as pos- sible. The critical times for experimentation are the migration seasons of juvenile and adult salmon. Therefore, to provide enough time to collect and organize data, we encourage scientists, within nine months of the end of the last migration season, to archive a comprehensive data set for each year's studies and make them available to the public at one or more of the region's research universities. We also encourage principal scientists in charge of the experiments to submit a paper or papers reviewing the cumulative experience and scientific findings as often as results warrant; probably at least once every three years. The papers should be submitted to a national peer-reviewed journal of unquestioned reputa- tion. Membership The scientific advisory board must have a diverse and distinguished mem- bership that can address all the major scientific issues. In addition to biology, hydrology, fishery science, and engineering, its expertise should include the so- cial sciences, including anthropology, sociology, and economics; and it should include geography and information science. It is critical that members of the advisory board be chosen for their scientific and technical expertise rather than as representatives of a particular agency or organization; to the degree possible, their scientific judgment should be independent of their parent organizations. There is value in mixing experts who have extensive local knowledge with those who have great expertise but less local knowledge and hence fewer biases. Probably, some advisory board members should come from outside the region. But its membership must be chosen in a way that will give it credibility in the eyes of the people and institutions of the region. It must be independent. Operation Several factors are needed for a scientific advisory board to function effec- tively. Sociologist William Freudenburg analyzed some factors that affect such a board's effectiveness (Freudenburg 1990), and the following advice draws on his analysis. The advisory board must have adequate financial support to operate and to meet often enough to do its job. It must have a professional staff whose primary responsibility is to the board. Borrowing staff from one of the agencies in the region creates the risk that the staff will have divided loyalties and insuffi
A SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD TO ADDRESS THE SALMON PROBLEM 357 cient time to perform their functions. To a large degree, the advisory board must set its own agenda, lest it become bogged down in the details of issues that others deem to be important. Although it must be independent, it must have a mecha- nism for being responsive to the concerns of people with local knowledge, inter- est, and concerns. Finally, its reports must be visible and accessible to all. Although the advisory board will not and should not make policy decisions, its scientific advice must be loud and clear enough that it cannot be ignored by accident. The operation of a successful scientific advisory board will require substan- tial money for support and logistics and substantial time of its members and staff. But if it is successful in its goals encouraging thoughtful experimentation, help- ing other scientists to design and execute research and analyze the results, and helping to create a conduit for information among scientists and between scien- tists and the public the investment of money and time will be worthwhile.