The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation is about to write another scene in California’s ongoing irrigation water drama.

The foundation’s six-week-old Save Our Water petition drive has gathered nearly 11,000 signatures, said Bob Krauter, director of foundation development.

The Save Our Water campaign is designed to urge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to petition U.S. Interior Sec. Ken Salazar to convene the endangered species committee as outlined in the Endangered Species Act, Krauter said. Under the law, the committee could exempt federal water projects from court-ordered pumping restrictions that have reduced water allotments to some San Joaquin Valley growers and to cities in Southern California.

Just as the drive was nearing completion, Deputy Interior Sec. David Hayes told reporters in Sacramento Aug. 12 that “saving the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has become a major national priority.”

Salazar is scheduling hearings in September to obtain public input on how to improve water quality in the delta, Hayes said.

Pacific Legal Foundation has scheduled a news conference Aug. 19 at the state capitol building to present the petitions to Schwarzenegger, Krauter said. A representative of Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., plans to join foundation officials at the news conference as will several elected officials and members of the California business community, he said.

During an appearance in Fresno June 28, Salazar said convening the committee, commonly referred to as the God squad, would be admitting failure, and that on the rare occasions when the committee was convened in the past, it created more litigation and bottlenecks.