Interior Department reviewing allegations in delta smelt case

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An Interior Department official said Thursday the agency will ask independent experts to review allegations by a federal judge that the testimony of two department scientists was so inconsistent and contradictory it amounted to deliberate deception.

U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger attacked the credibility of the biologists last month shortly before retiring from the bench. At a hearing on a motion in a court case involving delta smelt protections, Wanger called one of the scientists a ‘zealot’ and accused the agency of engaging in ‘bad faith.’


A transcript of his remarks was widely circulated, providing ammunition for critics of endangered species protections that have cut water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta. Wanger later said his statements dealt with a limited issue and had been blown out of proportion.

Testifying before a House subcommittee on the Endangered Species Act, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director Gary Frazer said the Interior Department disagreed with Wanger’s comments and stood behind the work of its scientists.

‘We also believe that, when questions arise regarding the integrity of scientific work, it is important to resolve them swiftly, independentlyand decisively,’ he said, adding that the agency has instructed its scientific integrity officers ‘to retain independent experts to evaluate the allegations made by Judge Wanger.’


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-- Bettina Boxall