04-11-12 Greenwire “Battle escalates over allegations of NPS misconduct

‘Good enough for government work’
To PEER executive director Jeff Ruch, the debate over the noise data is irrelevant. Even if NPS made mistakes in presenting the data — by not clearly marking the sound levels as estimates — it falls short of scientific misconduct, he said.

The Park Service has limited funds and limited time. The draft EIS is “good enough for government work,” he said.

“It’s a minor mistake. It doesn’t invalidate the larger product,” he said. “This is a game of academic gotcha that misses the broader point.”
Greenwire
3. INTERIOR:
Battle escalates over allegations of NPS misconduct
Emily Yehle, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Environmental groups are pushing back against allegations that the National Park Service falsified data in an effort to oust a California oyster farm from a wilderness area.

The Interior Department — which houses NPS — is looking into allegations that officials purposely misled the public by using 1995 data from New Jersey police boats to represent the noise coming from Drakes Bay Oyster Co. A table in the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) appears to imply the data were collected at the farm, and it misled a scientist who reviewed the document as part of a peer review Interior commissioned (Greenwire, March 27).

The controversy is the latest in a string of headaches for Interior over NPS research on Drakes Bay Oyster Co., which is fighting to renew its lease in a national wilderness area. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has closely followed the controversy, has since accused the service of building a “deceptive and potentially fraudulent” case against the company (E&ENews PM, March 29).

But Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin say the charges are overblown. They point to the fact that the EIS fully cites the sources of the noise data in its references, even if such clear citations are not on the table itself.

In a recent letter to Interior Scientific Integrity Officer Ralph Morgenweck, EAC executive director Amy Trainer calls the allegations “unfounded.”

“We are particularly concerned about the recent claims both because of the manner in which they have been politicized by Senator Feinstein, and, like previous ones, are baseless, unscientific, and distract from the real issue facing Secretary Salazar: whether to uphold long-standing national park laws and policies, or roll them back to allow private industry to commercialize the heart of a national park,” she wrote.

A Feinstein spokesman did not return a request for comment. But in her letter to Salazar last month, Feinstein referenced the repeated problems found with NPS research on the farm; that includes a 2011 report from Interior’s solicitor’s office that found park scientists mishandled evidence and acted improperly (Greenwire, March 23, 2011).

Guessing game
The mystery over how NPS came to its estimates lingers. Interior is refusing to detail how NPS extrapolated the sound levels of the farm’s equipment from the 1995 New Jersey study and a 2006 “Construction Noise Users Guide” from the Federal Highway Administration.

Most puzzling is the sound level for the farm’s oyster tumbler. Five items in the 2006 guide match the sound level attributed to the tumbler in the draft EIS: a concrete-mixer truck, a drill-rig truck, a front-end loader, a rivet buster and a ventilation fan.

None come close to the tumbler, a piece of equipment that uses a small electric motor to sort oysters. In her letter to Interior, Trainer suggests that a concrete mixer is the most likely substitute.

But she also presents a seemingly random hypothesis. NPS, she writes, could have taken the 85 decibels attributed to “all other equipment” in the 2006 users guide and then “conservatively decided to reduce the loudness attributed to the oyster tumbler” to get the 79 decibels cited in the draft EIS.

Trainer uses similar logic in her defense of the 71 decibels the draft EIS attributes to the oyster farm’s motorboats, the loudest of which has a 40 horsepower engine. The only number that matches in the New Jersey study — which is cited in the EIS as the source — is the sound level for a 1995 Kawasaki Jet Ski.

But in her letter, Trainer hypothesizes the Park Service instead based the loudness of the farm’s motorboats on the sound level for a boat with a 175 horsepower engine. That engine is far louder than those of the farm’s boats, and the New Jersey study measured its sound level at 81 decibels.

Trainer contends that NPS just took off 10 decibels to reach the 71 decibels that is attributed to the farm’s boats in the EIS.

When asked how she came to these calculations, Trainer said her group “took an objective, reasonable approach to consider what equipment the NPS was likely comparing to like.”

But Interior is keeping silent on how NPS actually came to its numbers, which are used in the EIS to make a variety of assertions. Among them is that the farm’s motorboats can be heard more than 1.3 miles away. The draft EIS also contends that the oyster tumbler — which sorts the shellfish with a far quieter engine than that of the boats — can be heard 2.3 miles away.

‘Good enough for government work’
To PEER executive director Jeff Ruch, the debate over the noise data is irrelevant. Even if NPS made mistakes in presenting the data — by not clearly marking the sound levels as estimates — it falls short of scientific misconduct, he said.

The Park Service has limited funds and limited time. The draft EIS is “good enough for government work,” he said.

“It’s a minor mistake. It doesn’t invalidate the larger product,” he said. “This is a game of academic gotcha that misses the broader point.”

That point, to environmental groups, is that the oyster farm sits in an area that Congress designated as wilderness decades ago. If Interior allows the company to stay, they contend that it would go against policy and set a precedent that could endanger wilderness areas throughout the country.

Indeed, the Park Service was poised to kick out the farm before Feinstein intervened in 2009, inserting language in the fiscal 2010 spending bill that explicitly allowed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to grant the farm a 10-year renewal. The EIS process began after that.

Feinstein, Ruch said, “appears to be upset by the process her own legislation created.”

“This is not rocket science — motor boats and machinery make noise and this location, Drakes Estero, is supposed to be wilderness,” he said. “Senator Feinstein’s repeated personal interventions for this one company have become the very epitome of political interference with science to which she claims to be objecting.”

Ruch and Trainer have taken particular aim at Corey Goodman, a scientist who has long criticized NPS for its research on the oyster farm. Goodman became involved in the controversy when he gave expert testimony to the Marin County Board of Supervisors in 2007; since then, he has spent countless hours scrutinizing the Park Service’s research.

Goodman publicized the noise data issues last month, sending a letter to Salazar that requested an investigation into possible scientific misconduct.

In a recent interview, Goodman said Trainer’s letter responding to his allegations raised more questions than answers. The assertion that the sound levels in the EIS were the result of random calculations would be a more serious problem than his assumption that NPS based them off louder equipment.

“Whatever it is, it was a completely inappropriate number to pick that completely misrepresented what the engine sounds like and it clearly bamboozled the peer reviewer,” Goodman said.

Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher said the department is conducting a review of the allegations. The agency’s scientific integrity policy requires Interior to launch a preliminary review to determine whether such allegations are substantiated and thus necessitate a larger investigation.

But all sides of the controversial issue seem to agree to one thing: NPS should make it clear how they calculated the noise levels of the farm’s equipment.

“I do think it would help in the final EIS to list all of their assumptions and specify how these numbers came about,” Trainer said. “There’s room for improvement.”

 

03-27-12 Greenwire: NPS noise data for CA oyster farm based on 1995 study in NJ

“We have all heard the chorus from NPS supporters about noisy oyster boats disturbing wildlife in Drakes Estero,” Goodman wrote in the letter, adding that NPS and contracted employees “knew or should have known that NPS had no such acoustic data from Drakes Estero, and so data were substituted from a report done for the New Jersey State Police in 1995 including measurements from a loud Jet Ski along the New Jersey shores.”

He added: “Surely it is time to put a stop to this repeated pattern of deception. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been spent to deceive the public, and to fool you.”

Greenwire http://www.eenews.net/gw/
4. INTERIOR:
NPS noise data for Calif. oyster farm based on 1995 study in N.J.
Emily Yehle, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From 50 feet away, an oyster tumbler at Drakes Bay Oyster Co. reaches 79 decibels, on par with a noisy urban neighborhood, according to the National Park Service.

That is far higher than the Park Service’s 60-decibel limit, and it supports the agency’s calls for the farm to cease operations at its current location in a California wilderness area.

But there’s one problem: NPS never measured the sound of the oyster tumbler — or any other equipment at the farm.

A table in the agency’s recent draft environmental impact statement appears to imply otherwise, adding another allegation of scientific misconduct to an issue that has been mired in controversy for years.

The farm has operated in Point Reyes National Seashore for a century, receiving an exemption when Congress designated the land as a wilderness area more than 40 years ago. But its lease is up this year, and the EIS has become the focus of a fierce debate over whether the farm disturbs surrounding flora and fauna.

Noise from the farm’s operations has become the latest lightning rod. Employees routinely use motorboats to collect harvests and tend to the oyster bags, while a few pieces of equipment use small engines. Environmental groups say that disturbs wildlife and visitors.

The Park Service tackles the issue in the draft EIS, producing a table titled “Noise Generators at DBOC” that cites sound levels ranging from 71 decibels to 85 decibels. The report then refers to those numbers to conclude that noise from the farm “would result in long-term unavoidable adverse impacts on wildlife such as birds and harbor seals and visitor experience and recreation.”

But none of those numbers are measurements of the farm’s equipment. Instead, NPS used a 17-year-old study from Noise Unlimited on the New Jersey Police Department and a 2006 “Construction Noise Users Guide” from the Federal Highway Administration.

Then officials removed all language that made it clear the numbers were estimates.

A June 2011 internal version of the EIS shows a table with clear citations; three months later, Interior released a public draft that, among other things, referred to the sound levels as “representative” rather than “estimated.”

The National Park Service removed language that made it clear the noise levels were estimates, as shown in scientist Corey Goodman’s comparison between an internal June 2011 version and the September 2011 public draft. Click for a larger version. Graphic courtesy of Corey Goodman.

The comparisons can be a stretch. For the oyster tumbler, for example, NPS appears to have used one of five pieces of equipment listed in the 2006 user’s guide: a concrete mixer truck, a drill rig truck, a front end loader, a rivet buster or a ventilation fan.

The sound level for the farm’s motorboats matches up with the measurement of a 1995 Kawasaki Jet Ski in the Noise Unlimited study. The two have different engines; among other differences, the motorboats run at most on 40-horsepower engines, while the Jet Ski was fitted with a 70-horsepower engine.

Corey Goodman — a scientist who has long criticized NPS for its research on the farm — contends the agency knowingly misled the public. In a letter sent yesterday, he asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to investigate possible scientific misconduct.

“We have all heard the chorus from NPS supporters about noisy oyster boats disturbing wildlife in Drakes Estero,” Goodman wrote in the letter, adding that NPS and contracted employees “knew or should have known that NPS had no such acoustic data from Drakes Estero, and so data were substituted from a report done for the New Jersey State Police in 1995 including measurements from a loud Jet Ski along the New Jersey shores.”

He added: “Surely it is time to put a stop to this repeated pattern of deception. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been spent to deceive the public, and to fool you.”

Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher declined to comment on the details but said Goodman’s allegations “will be reviewed under the standard procedures contained in DOI’s scientific integrity policy.”

Problems with peer review
It is the latest headache for Interior in the controversy over NPS research on the California oyster farm.

Congress has already ordered a review from the National Academy of Sciences on whether the EIS has a “solid scientific foundation.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also has criticized the conclusions of the EIS, questioning whether research supports the EIS contention that the farm disturbs nearby harbor seals — and pointing out that there is no indication of negative impacts on fish protected by the Endangered Species Act or on “essential fish habitat” (Greenwire, Jan. 11).

Last week, ostensibly to combat such criticism, Interior released a peer review it commissioned. That review — facilitated by consulting firm Atkins North America — concluded that the EIS had no “fundamental flaw” in its scientific underpinnings (Greenwire, March 19).

But one peer reviewer based at least part of his conclusions on a false premise.

Christopher Clark, a bioacoustics expert at Cornell University, confirmed to Greenwire that he believed the table in the draft EIS on the oyster farm’s sound levels “represented measurements taken from DBOC activities.”

Clark declined to comment further, but in his review he refers to the table in his assessment that the draft EIS is “robust.”

“I conclude that there is ample acoustic scientific evidence by which the DEIS can determine that DBOC noise-generating activities have negative impacts on both the human visitor experience and the seashore’s wildlife,” he wrote.

To the farm’s owner, that is enough to brand the peer review as “absolutely worthless.”

“Here I read a peer review citing and congratulating the Park Service on data that don’t exist,” said DBOC owner Kevin Lunny, who has fought for years to keep his farm in Point Reyes National Seashore. The EIS, he added, “is meant to go to decisionmakers, and I see something that couldn’t pass any test of honesty or integrity. Somebody is not being honest with somebody here.”

Lunny also questioned why Clark was not given a copy of a study DBOC commissioned on the noise of its equipment.

That study — completed by ENVIRON International Corp. — measured the sound levels as far lower than the estimates in the draft EIS. The oyster tumbler, for example, clocked in between 50 and 59 decibels, rather than the 79 in the draft EIS.

NPS did not get the measurements until after releasing the draft EIS, as ENVIRON submitted a report with the study results during the comment period. But Lunny contends that Clark should have gotten the information.

He also criticized the selection of another peer reviewer: Ted Grosholz, a professor from University of California, Davis. Grosholz was one of two peer reviewers who studied the sections of the draft EIS dealing with marine estuarine ecology and coastal zone management. Both found the scientific analyses in the draft EIS “reasonable,” though they pointed to some interpretations that were not supported by evidence.

Grosholz’s name has come up throughout the controversy over the farm’s future in Drakes Estero. In 2007, for example, he was one of more than a dozen scientists NPS asked to review the agency’s research on Drakes Bay Oyster Co., in response to Goodman’s criticism. He has also pursued research at the site, though he has not received funding for it.

In a recent interview, Grosholz said he made it “extremely clear with everyone what my background is” when he was asked to conduct the review. He conceded that he is well-acquainted with two NPS scientists — Ben Becker and Sarah Allen — who have been at the center of the controversy for their research on the farm’s affect on wildlife, particularly nearby harbor seals.

But he dismissed Lunny’s contention that he is biased, pointing to his past work with other shellfish companies. The situation, he said, is “difficult” on all sides.

“I tend to work across the spectrum,” Grosholz said. “It’s not correct to say I’m somehow in the hip pocket of the Park Service.”

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03-26-12 Dr. Goodman letter to Secy of Int. Salazar Falsified Data in dEIS and Peer Review

In his letter to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, Dr. Corey Goodman makes the following requests:

(1) REQUEST FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR TO INVESTIGATE
SCIENTIFIC MISCONDUCT BY EMPLOYEES OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
(NPS) AND VANASSE HANGEN BRUSTLIN (VHB, EIS CONTRACTOR)

(2) REQUEST FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR TO DIRECT ATKINS
(PEER REVIEW CONTRACTOR) TO WITHDRAW THEIR REPORT ON THE DEIS

(3) REQUEST FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR TO DIRECT NPS TO
WITHDRAW THE DEIS AND CANCEL THE VHB CONTRACT

Click here for full text:

CSG to Salazar.03_26_12

03-26-12 Summary of NPS Deception & Falsification of Scientific Data

Dr. Corey Goodman, Elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences spells out a “repeated pattern of deception” where “millions of dollars of taxpayer money are being spent to deceive the public”.

Please click the link below to read the full text:

summary of NPS DEIS and ATKINS review soundscape deception

03-26-12 NPS used falsified acoustic data to deceive Public an Peer review of dEIS

On March 21, Dr. Clark, of Cornell, was informed of the falsified data and retracted his support of the dEIS data and stated he “does not believe that these activities have a biologically significant impact on wildlife…”

Why? Ask yourselves, do these sound equal?

A 4-STROKE 70 HORSEPOWER JET SKI  versus a  2-STROKE, 20 HORSEPOWER, oyster boat?

Noise measurements at 4 feet above water line and 2 feet behind a 70 HP boat engine, to those at 50 feet from a 20 HP boat engine?

A Federal Highway Heavy Construction Diesel Forklift at 78 dBA, to the Oyster Farm’s Small Front End Loader at 64-65 dBA?

A 4-foot tall Federal Highway Heavy Construction Jack-Hammer at 85 dBA,  to an  18-inch hand held drill producing 70 dBA used by the oyster farm?

A Federal Highway Heavy Construction Rivet Buster at 79 dBA, to a 12v electric motor oyster tumbler at 50 dBA?

Noise factors overstated by a factor of 12 to 825 times in dEIS

What does this mean?

It would take TWELVE (12) boats like the DBOC oyster boat, all operating in the same location to generate the 71 dBA stated in the dEIS. (see page 30, Table H-1, footnote “b” in the linked document).

What difference does 10 decibels make?  “An increase of 3 dB is a doubling of the “strength” of the sound, and an increase of 10 dB means that the sound is 10 times as loud; i.e., 70 dB is 10 times as loud as 60 dB.”  http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/eng99/eng99325.htm

Here are some typical sounds, and their levels.

Sounds dB SPL
Rocket Launching                                  180
Jet Engine                                                  140
Air Raid Siren 1 Meter                          130
Jet takeoff (200 ft)                                 120
Discotheque                                              110
Firecrackers                                              100
Heavy Truck (15 Meter)                         90
Alarm Clock (1 Meter)                             80
Noisy Restaurant                                       70
Conversational Speech                            60
Light Traffic (50 Meter)                           50
Quiet Office                                                    40
Library, Soft Whisper (5 Meter)           30
Broadcasting Studio, Rustling Leaves 20
Hearing Threshold                                         0

For the full text of Dr. Goodman’s review of the NPS & Atkins review of soundscape deception, click the link below:

NPS DEIS and ATKINS review soundscape deception.9.2MB

03-01-2012 Atkins Review

The DOI paid for a review of the dEIS by Atkins.

The DOI requested an independent peer review of the DEIS (Chapters 3 and 4) to examine the scientific and technical information and scholarly analysis presented in the document

The peer review was limited to the scientific information used in the DEIS.

Atkins was directed to select at least four well-qualified, independent reviewers.

  • Marine Estuarine Ecology and Coastal Zone Management: Dr. Ted Grosholz, University of California – Davis, and Dr. Dianna Padilla, Stony Brook University (1)
  • Water Quality: Dr. Charlie Wisdom, Parametrix (2)
  • Soundscapes: Dr. Christopher Clark, Cornell University (3)
  • Socioeconomics: Dr. James Wilen, University of California – Davis (4)

(1) The reviewers (Grosholz & Padilla) noted several exceptions where conclusions were not reasonable and/or scientifically sound, or other conclusions may be drawn. … The reviewers also point out several instances where statements are made or alluded to without sufficient supporting information…. the DEIS assumes that the expansion of aquaculture activity will increase loss of eelgrass in linear fashion, but there are no data supporting that assumption…. the relative impact of the two oyster culture methods (off-bottom racks versus on-bottom bags) was not consistently applied when assessing the impacts of the alternatives, affecting the DEIS conclusions.

(2) He (Dr. Charlie Wisdom) noted that alternate conclusions (direct adverse effect versus no direct adverse effect) could have been drawn with regard to the potential impacts of leachates from CCA-treated lumber on juvenile coho salmon. The flushing rate of Drakes Estero is likely to be high enough to dilute concentrations below fish thresholds

(3) On March 21, Dr. Christopher Clark, of Cornell of Cornell University, was informed of the falsified data and retracted his support of the dEIS data stating he “does not believe that these activities have a biologically significant impact on wildlife…”

(4) Dr. Wilen found that the DEIS derives qualitative impact assessments with minimal comparative data and undefined criteria, leading to conclusions that are ―vague at best, and misleading at worst‖ (Appendix B).

For the full text of the Atkins review, click the link below

Final_DEIS_Drakes_Bay_SUP_Peer_Review_Report_030112

12-09-2011 Environ Report on dEIS

Actual study of Drakes Bay Oyster Company Boats and equipment reveals the deception in the dEIS of the NPS.

“ENVIRON International Corporation (ENVIRON) has reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) Drakes Bay Oyster Company Special Use Permit (ID: 43390), and appreciates this opportunity to report our technical comments to the National Park Service (NPS) in print form. ENVIRON regularly participates in NEPA processes such as this, and respects the effort put forth by the NPS in order to develop this draft document. The purpose of these comments is to assist the NPS in developing a more scientifically accurate and complete final document that is consistent with NEPA and NPS policy.

In general, the structure of the DEIS is unusual in that there is no alternative that represents the proposed action. Neither is there an alternative that represents a continuation of current conditions. In the current structure of the DEIS, the public is left to glean unknown conditions without the Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) as the no action scenario. Consequently, the impacts resulting from conditions under alternatives that depart from this unknown status (Alternative A) are even more difficult to understand. No explanation is provided for this deviation from standard NEPA protocol, and ENVIRON questions the efficacy of this approach. Setting aside the DEIS structure, comments have been developed in several topic areas.
ENVIRON found consistent omissions and mistakes that err in a way that exaggerates potential negative impacts and understates potential positive impacts benefits. NEPA protocol requires the author to apply a net impact analysis – an assessment of both positive and negative impacts. Without this net approach, results could point toward a ‘least negative’ alternative which might in fact be worse for the environment than another option that had more negatives, but more positives that potentially balance out or mitigate for the negative impacts.”

For the full text of the report click the link below:

ENVIRON 2011

01-01-2006 Federal Highway FHWA Roadway Construction Noise Model

NPS tries to equate Highway Heavy Construction Machinery to tools used at Drakes Bay Oyster Farm.

The Roadway Construction Noise Model (RCNM) is the Federal Highway
Administration’s (FHWA) national model for the prediction of construction noise. Due
to the fact that construction is often conducted in close proximity to residences and
businesses, construction noise must be controlled and monitored to avoid impacts on
surrounding communities. In addition to community issues, excessive noise can threaten
a construction project’s progress. Each project needs to balance the community’s need
for peace and quiet with the contractor’s need to progress the work.

Keep in mind, the machinery used at the oyster farm at Drakes Bay Oyster Company are practically like Tinker Toys when compared to the Heavy Duty Highway Construction machinery and trucks evaluated in this report.

For the full text of the Model, please click the link below:

FHWA 2006

11-01-1995 Noise Unlimited report on boat noise

NPS removes references to tests of Jet Ski noise at full throttle in a 17 year old study of police jet skis in New Jersey and attempts to pass this off as a study of Drakes Bay Oyster Company motor boats in the dEIS.

September of 1995,  Noise Unlimited was requested by the State of New Jersey, Department of Law and Public Safety Division of State Police, Marine Law Enforcement Bureau, to test and report on the noise levels of boats.

Engines were tested at idle with the microphone 5 feet above the water line and 2 feet behind the transom of the boat as well as at full throttle 50 feet away.

For the full text of their letter to the State of New Jersey, please click below:

Noise Unlimited 1995

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