Less than 24 hours after a top Obama administration official rejected the idea of convening Endangered Species Committee to resolve California’s water woes, Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation launched a campaign to force the committee’s activation.

The foundation sent letters to President Barack Obama and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger requesting they act to convene the committee, also known as the God Squad, said Rob Rivett, the foundation’s president.


Interior Secretary Ken Salazar rejected the idea at a news conference in Fresno June 28.


“That would be admitting failure. I am not about failure,” Salazar said.


Under the Endangered Species Act, the special committee may be formed and empowered to override the law when it causes excessive destruction of jobs and the economy.


“There’s a reason to have it in the statute,” Rivett said, “and there isn’t a better reason or circumstance than right now when we have an economy that is being devastated by the implementation of the Endangered Species Act."


Salazar should take a step back to see what can be done that would modify “the Draconian measures that are being taken to try to save some of our farmworkers’ jobs and our farms,” he said.


The foundation launched an online petition June 29, to be presented to the president, Salazar and Schwarzenegger. The petition is at www.pacificlegal.org, Rivett said.


Copies of the letters to Obama and Schwarzenegger are also on the group’s Web site.


The foundation objects to decisions made by federal agencies acting according to what they believe to be the law as defined by the Endangered Species Act. Those decisions should be based on the best available scientific and commercial data, Rivett said.


“We’re not seeing that,” he said. “We’re seeing often times what I would call political science to make these decisions.”


The agencies failed to recognize many factors affecting marine life in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Rivett said.


“They’re focusing on the water pumps in the delta as the sole and only source for remediation of the problems when it’s not been demonstrated that the pumps truly impose a majority of the problems,” he said.


Rivett said he believes the Endangered Species Act will eventually have to be modified, but that the foundation has no plans to play a role in any changes in the law.


“We’re not in the business of lobbying for change; we’re in the business of making sure people understand what the law’s doing and how, at times, the way it’s being implemented is abusing people’s rights,” he said.