The NAS study was released TODAY.
NPS will not like it.
After six years – the NPS STILL does not have DATA to support its claims.
This is a stunning rebuke of the National Park Service – Again!
The media were informed yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon and provided the report.
To fully understand what is now happening, a little history is in order.
Go back to 2007. Supervisor Kinsey, in April of that year, asked Dr. Corey Goodman to review the NPS science and advise the Board if the NPS accusations and claims being made about the Lunny’s oyster farm (especially about harm to harbor seals) were supported by reports, data and other scientific information. Goodman’s conclusion – NPS claims, particularly about harm to the ecology of the Estero, eelgrass and harbor seals – NONE OF IT WAS SUPPORTED by NPS science or NPS data.
In May, 2007, The Board of Supervisors unanimously asked Senator Feinstein to become involved. On July 21, 2007, the Senator convened a meeting at Olema with NPS, Supervisor Kinsey, Kevin Lunny, Dr. Goodman and others. At its conclusion, Senator Feinstein and then-NPS Director Mary Bomar agreed that the NPS science at Point Reyes had to be independently reviewed. Some 24 months later, the National Academy of Sciences conducted that review and issued a report on May 5, 2009 in which they concluded, “…the National Park Service report “Drakes Estero: A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary” in some instances selectively presented, overinterpreted, or misrepresented the available scientific information on DBOC operations by exaggerating the negative and overlooking potentially beneficial effects.”
NPS initiated an Environmental Impact Statement process in September 2010 to assess the environmental impact of the oyster farm for its lease extension to 2022. A year later, in September 2011, NPS published a “Draft” EIS (DEIS). Once again, NPS, in its DEIS made claim after claim of environmental harm. BUT!! There was virtually no data, and the little data actually presented (we would later learn) was fraudulently misrepresented (the jet ski data from New Jersey). At the time the DEIS was published, Dr. Goodman, examined the document and concluded, once again, the NPS science, as presented, was NOT supported by data. In sum, the $2 million, 700-page massive document prepared by the NPS was “long on accusations, and woefully short” on anything to substantiate their claims. Kevin’s conclusion — NPS “weaponized” NEPA to advance its efforts to drive the Lunnys out of business, but did not prepare a proper or valid EIS.
Some 3,000 miles away, others became skeptical as well. Turns out, the US Congress did not believe NPS either. Last December, the House-Senate conferees for the Interior Department’s annual funding bill adopted special language mandating that NPS return to the National Academy of Sciences for another review – this time of the science in the NPS DEIS. The Committee, in its formal Report, stated that this new review was ordered, “…because of concerns relating to the validity of the science underlying the DEIS…”
The NAS initiated its review in May 2012 and today is releasing its report. The NAS concludes (from the NAS press release):
The NPS DEIS:
* “…lack strong scientific support due to the limited amount of available data”
* “…the limited information that assesses the effects of the company’s operations on the resources of Drakes Estero could also support other conclusions, some of which could indicate a lower level of environmental impact”
* “…needs to better define the criteria used to assess possible environmental impacts”
* “There is little scientific literature on Drakes Estero, and research on the potential impacts that oyster farming has on this particular ecosystem is even sparser,” said Thomas Malone, chair of the committee that wrote the report and professor emeritus at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “Trying to assess environmental impacts based on a limited amount of information would be similar, for example, to estimating rainfall for an entire year when rainfall records are only available for March. The draft EIS could have done a better job discussing how this limited data on Drakes Estero results in less definitive scientific conclusions.”
* “Due to the limited data on Drakes Estero, the National Park Service relied mainly on inferences from research conducted in other locales, as this was the only approach that could be used under the circumstances.”
* “…this approach resulted in moderate to high levels of uncertainty for seven of the eight resource categories reviewed by the committee.”
* “In addition, not enough information was available to establish how the oyster farm’s operation could impact the various categories; thus, this same information could be interpreted as leading to other possible, alternate conclusions that were not discussed in the EIS.”
* The [NAS] committee determined that for resource categories assigned a moderate or high level of uncertainty — such as harbor seals, soundscape, and water quality — the impacts could also be lower than those presented in the draft EIS. “
If you recall, in early 2012, the National Academy also contracted with an outside peer reviewer – ATKINS. When publicly released on March 19, 2012, the Interior Department’s Scientific Integrity Office, Dr. Ralph Morgenweck, said in an Interior Department Press Release, “The peer-review accomplished exactly what we were seeking — that is, specific recommendations on how to improve the final environmental impact statement to make it a better science product.”
What did the NAS say about the DOI-NPS “Atkins” Peer Review? They were highly critical. Here’s what the Report says – in NAS’ own words — about the DOI-NPS funded Atkins Peer-Review.
”The [NAS] committee disagrees with the following conclusions of this section of the Atkins report:
The evidence presented in the DEIS is “robust.” The committee concludes that the ACOUSTIC DATA, WHICH WERE COLLECTED FOR OTHER PURPOSES, ARE NOT ADEQUATE to provide information on (1) spatial-temporal natural sounds, and (2) DBOC levels of noise from various activities and other transient human-related sounds (e.g., air flights, kayakers, etc.).
L50 is an adequate measure of noise. L50 DOES NOTcapture high and low extreme values of the amplitude of noise to provide adequate context (range and variability) of noise sources. To characterize the statistical properties of noise in a given environment, a number of measures should be presented.
Table 3-3 of the DEIS “shows noise level values within close proximity to DBOC noise sources.”1 In reality, several of these values are reported from a 1995 study (Noise Unlimited, Inc., 1995). Apparently, the Atkins reviewer misinterpreted these as in situ data. Table 3-3 DATA ARE NOT FROM DBOC noise sources at the site and may not be representative of DBOC sound sources.
The committees disagrees that there is sufficient evidence presented to conclude that alternatives B and C have “major” impacts (Atkins, p. 85).
The committee disagrees with the statement that alternative D would have a “greater” (Atkins, p. 85) impact on soundscapes than alternatives B or C. For example, a new building could be constructed to reduce noise from onshore DBOC operations and mitigation measure are available that could reduce noise associated with motorboat activity.”
THE COMMITTEE IDENTIFIED ADDITIONAL SHORTCOMMINGS in the DEIS that are not mentioned by this review, including a lack of underwater soundscape assessments (underwater acoustic data collection).
Also, the Atkins review did not mention that additional relevant information was available in the Volpe (2011) study that was not included in the DEIS analysis.
Dr. Goodman, in response to the Board of Supervisors, said that NPS claims were not supported by NPS data in 2007 – and some of the key data that existed was mispresented.
The DOI Inspector General said key NPS science was misrepresented in 2008.
The National Academy of Sciences formally criticized the NPS science in 2009.
The Marine Mammal Commission called NPS harbor seal data “scant” in 2011.
Today, in 2012, the inescapable conclusion: The National Park Service made false claims (again) and misrepresented its own science (again).
After seven years and multiple reviews, the National Academy of Sciences affirmed Dr. Goodman’s conclusions.