Forty Environmental Violations Document Abuse of Local Watershed
On Aug. 4, wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with support from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Food and Agriculture and other allied agencies, served a search warrant spanning two parcels in the Scotts Valley area of Lakeport in Lake County.
The warrant stemmed from an investigation involving environmental damage associated with illegal commercial cannabis cultivation. The operation involved personnel from six separate agencies. This effort could not have been accomplished without this successful collaboration.
A records check confirmed that neither of the parcels were licensed by the state for commercial cannabis cultivation.
“An illegal cannabis cultivation operation of this magnitude has severe impacts to California’s natural resources and the legal cannabis industry. Unpermitted cannabis grows will not be tolerated especially those presenting such a huge environmental and public safety threat,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.
On site, officers and staff eradicated 51,799 illegal cannabis plants, confiscated seven firearms, seized over $27,000 in cash and documented approximately 40 Fish and Game Code crimes.
Violations included garbage piled up near various waterways, numerous unpermitted water diversions, illegal grading of the landscape resulting in sediment discharge and stockpiles of chemicals near waterways. One cultivation site was built over an existing stream resulting in a modified channel into a ditch with polluted water. Each violation alone can have a detrimental environmental impact but combined are degrading entire watersheds at the expense of California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources and the habitats they depend upon for survival.
“CDFW is obligated, by statute, to protect California’s natural resources, which are held in trust by the state for use and enjoyment by the public,” said Jeremy Valverde, CDFW’s Cannabis Policy Director. “Large, illegal cultivation operations like these can create significant environmental impacts that can last years. We continue to encourage those wanting to cultivate commercially to become permitted and licensed.”
Twenty-six individuals were detained during the operation including two minors, a 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy, working at the site. Criminal charges will be filed with the Lake County District Attorney’s Office.
CDFW encourages the public to report illegal cannabis cultivation and environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or texting information to “TIP411” (847411).
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891