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Water managers call for science that is useful

Kirk Rodgers, director of the Bureau of Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region, addresses scientists Friday at a conference in Klamath Falls.

Published Feb. 8, 2004

By DYLAN DARLING

Bureaucrats who must decide how to divide up water supplies in the Klamath Basin encouraged researchers Friday to focus their work on scientific studies that will lead to better management decisions.

"What would Upper Klamath Lake look like in success?" asked Kirk Rodgers, who formerly managed the Klamath Reclamation Project and is now director of the Bureau of Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region.

Managers need to know "where we could get the most bang for our buck and engage it right now," Rodgers told about 150 scientists Friday, near the end of a four-day conference on research in the Klamath Basin.

Rogers said agency managers need scientists to whittle their list of research priorities to a six-, eight-or ten-point list. That would make it easier for managers to focus their funding.

Regional managers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geographical Survey joined the scientists for the conclusion of the conference held at the Shilo Inn.

Since Tuesday the scientists had been sharing presentations about their work and trying to figure out what they need to study next.

"We need to sit down with the managers and make sure that what we have is of use to managers," said Rip Shively, fisheries biologist with the Geological Survey.

He said the needs of the scientists include standardized water quality testing, increased coordination of research and collaboration among different agencies and groups.

In getting to those needs, the scientists will have to work together and figure out what exactly their goals are.

"We need to start asking better questions," Shively said.

Steve Thompson, regional manager for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said research must remain focused on the future.

"We have limited money and limited time," Thompson said.

For now, they have the attention of state and federal lawmakers. Those lawmakers have put money into the Basin, so they will now want to see results, he said.

By talking to managers, scientists can figure out what research they need to put a priority so the results can be used in making decisions, said Dennis Lynch, regional director for the Geological Survey.

"We've done enough evaluation to really know where we have our gaps," Lynch said.

Now they need to figure out which gaps to fill first.

Throughout the four-day conference, participants wrote down their scientific needs and submitted them to conference organizers. Lynch said Bureau officials are working on putting the information together into a ballot.

Organizers wanted to take a vote on Friday, but after getting a deluge of suggestions, they decided to send out an e-mail ballot to conference participants next week. The results will tallied in several weeks and the results will help scientists and managers alike.

Although the managers need information as quickly as possible, the scientists need to be thinking of setting up research that will help other researchers and managers down the road, Lynch said.

"We need to always keep our minds open to what will the next generation of scientists need," he said.

Wedge Watkins, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said improving the data and knowledge about the Basin is just going to be a start. There will have to be communication among the researchers and managers to make it all work.

"Better science is not going to be the answer for us, it is going to be part of the answer," Watkins said.

 

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