Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I know this feeling

From Matt Weiser's article on yesterday's NAS hearing in Davis.

Peter Moyle, a fisheries biologist at the University of California, Davis, told the panel that diversions are the primary threat. "Other stressors" that water agencies often complain about, he said, are caused by water diversions, including invasive species and poor water quality. "Unfortunately the bottom line is, we've got to reduce the amount of water we export from the system," Moyle said.

Scott Hamilton, an economist, focused his presentation to the panel on fall freshwater flows to the ocean. He spoke on behalf of the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, where most of the officers work for Paramount Farms, the San Joaquin Valley farming enterprise owned by billionaire Stewart Resnick. Hamilton also works for Resnick as resource manager at Paramount Farms.

Another presenter, Richard Deriso, analyzed Delta smelt population and survival data and told the panel that methods used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are "flawed." Deriso is chief scientist at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. He didn't say his analysis was done for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
I don't know anything about fisheries biology, but it is interesting to see the National Academy of Sciences hearing testimony from agricultural industry economists and tropical tuna experts questioning Delta Smelt science. One final quote:
Bill Bennett, a UC Davis fisheries ecologist and a leading expert on the smelt, shook his head as he sat in the audience during Deriso's presentation. "Some of them really believe what they find, but they don't know the ecological processes," Bennett said after the meeting.
I know exactly what Dr. Bennett is feeling. It is exactly what most economists feel when they listen to civil engineers say that spending billions on dams and canals is good for the economy.

Interdisciplinary work is important, but sometimes we need the scientists to stick to science, engineers to stick to engineering, and economists to stick to economics.

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