At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Council’s January 2010 request the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) reviewed six proposals for research in the Columbia River Estuary. These projects are proposed for implementation through the Corps’ Columbia River Fisheries Mitigation (CRFM) Program, specifically the Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program (AFEP). ISRP review of projects under this program was directed in the 1998 U.S. Congress Senate-House conference report for the fiscal year 1999 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The ISRP’s review responsibilities are also incorporated in the Council’s 2009 Fish and Wildlife Program.
In general, the ISRP found that the six proposals have relevance to the Biological Opinion and potential to benefit Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife. However, the proposals lacked sufficient background information on context, coordination, and methods to evaluate their scientific and technical merit. Overall, the proposals did not explicitly incorporate information from recent workshops and symposia on the Columbia River estuary (Council Estuary Science/Policy exchange and November Portland Estuary conference), relevant ecological literature, relationship of the projects to estuary restoration plans (subbasin and lower Columbia River Recovery Plan), and coordination with tasks executed through other programs (Council Fish and Wildlife Program). Specifically for individual proposals, sampling detail, recent results, simulation of expected results, and presentation of an adequate logic path that addresses key response variables were lacking.
The ISRP believes that the authors could provide the information needed to meet a standard of independent peer review, as the ISRP examined a subset of annual reports and found more extensive detail and documentation in their methods sections. The high quality presentations from the Council’s Science and Policy Exchange and the AFEP Annual Review also contained useful information to further justify the projects.