Pipe dreams and the response to PLF's "Save Our Water" Petition


Author: Brandon Middleton

As my colleague Damien Schiff noted last week, Pacific Legal Foundation has submitted over 12,000 signatures to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger urging him to formally request the convening of the "God Squad." The "God Squad" committee would be managed by the Obama administration and would have the power to exempt California's water projects from draconian Endangered Species Act restrictions.

The immediate result of a successful "God Squad" campaign would be more water for the dry San Joaquin Valley. Rather than acknowledge this simple reality, the response of the environmental community has been to shift the debate to their own causes célèbres and ignore the fact that the Endangered Species Act is being used to manage California's water supply. Consider, for example, NRDC's Doub Obegi, who describes PLF's ESA "God Squad" campaign as "rhetoric" and advocates for a "Virtual River" as "the best solution to meet the water needs of farmers, businesses, residents, fishermen, and the environment."

That's great, I suppose, but what is to be done about the Endangered Species Act and its stranglehold on California water management?  Here, Obegi's silence is deafening.  You can come up with all of the long-term solutions to California's water problems that you want, but unless you acknowledge the significant role the ESA is playing at present, it is a pipe dream to suggest your proposal will actually be a solution.

Suppose this "Virtual River" really is the best solution, what do you do about the Endangered Species Act?  Again, Obegi does not address this issue, but instead suggests that PLF is "perpetuat[ing] a myth" — we previously responded to this gross distortion of the law and our efforts by Obegi here.

This is why PLF's "Save Our Water" campaign is so important.  As it calls for the "God Squad" to exempt the water pumps from the Endangered Species Act, it would better enable politicians in Sacramento to make water policy decisions without federal meddling.  So while Obegi and those in Sacramento can debate long-term solutions to California's water situation all they want, they can't ignore the Endangered Species Act.

PLF will continue to challenge the misuse of the Endangered Species Act to forestall water deliveries.  The true myth here is that a long-term water solution can be achieved without this sort of effort.