Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Two Sonoma County men are accused of causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in environmental damage when they cleared about a half-acre of Boy Scout land in Cazadero to grow marijuana.
Nicholas Henderson, 30, and John Henry, 31, are charged with felony cultivation, possession for sale of marijuana and malicious mischief in connection with the garden, discovered in August at the 350-acre Camp Royaneh.
Deputies acting on a tip from neighbors found more than 100 trees sawed off chest-high with logs stacked between the stumps to create a terrace effect. Pot plants growing in burlap bags were irrigated by pipes leading from a neighboring house that also fed a large plastic storage tank.
A consultant estimated the cost to clean up the property and prevent erosion into nearby Austin Creek would be more than $280,000.
“They took a whole hillside and clear-cut the trees,” said Jason Lewis, a prosecution witness for the San Francisco Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Lewis said the plants went undiscovered because they were in a remote section of the 90-year-old camp. Each summer, the camp hosts about 1,500 children, he said.
Read more at: Men accused of secretly growing pot at Boy | The Press Democrat
Linda Williams, WILLITS NEWS
California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Study
Researchers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife published a study in March on the impacts of marijuana growing on several Eel River segments including the Little Lake Valley’s Outlet Creek.
The researchers concluded pot growing has become so prolific in this region it is literally sucking the streams dry. The study found the quantity of unregistered water abuse was many times the registered water use in the areas studied.
Unlike regulated forms of agricultural, livestock, home and municipal diversions, the clandestine nature of Emerald Triangle marijuana cultivation means that growers have been free to drain the Eel River with few controls in place to prevent it.
Water hungry marijuana plants need maximum watering just as California’s Mediterranean climate enters its dry period and normal flows in area streams drop naturally.
By regulation, the Brooktrails and Willits water reservoirs, located on tributaries of Outlet Creek, can only store water for human use during the wet season, allowing all dry weather flows to pass through the dams to benefit the fish. For much of the last 10 years it appears these water releases have gone, instead, to support marijuana operations.
Read more via Study shows pot is sucking the Eel River dry.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
State officials have begun rolling out a new environmental initiative designed to win the cooperation of marijuana growers in protecting Northern California waterways and fisheries from the kinds of degradation that commonly result from pot cultivation.
A team of state and local agency representatives conducted a series of unannounced inspections last week of gardens in the Eel River watershed near Garberville, visiting 14 properties over three days along Sproul Creek. The creek went dry last summer for the first time in many years from what environmental officials believe was the combined effects of drought and unregulated water withdrawals for marijuana irrigation.
Part of a larger effort to address watershed damage, environmental contamination and illegal water diversions that have continued unregulated for decades in remote forests up and down the state, the undertaking includes a plan to develop water quality standards to which growers can be held accountable or face fines and other penalties.
The multi-agency endeavor targets those who cultivate pot on private lands, with landowner permission, and is aimed at creating a system of regulation designed to help growers farm in an environmentally friendly manner while authorizing enforcement action where necessary.
Read more via State seeks water rules for pot growers | The Press Democrat.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Faced with an explosion of marijuana gardens, state regulators are developing a new program designed to bring medical cannabis farmers into compliance with state laws governing water use and water quality.
The regulatory program is expected to be unveiled sometime next year, said Erin Mustain, a senior water resources control engineer with the state Water Resources Control Board’s Cannabis Enforcement Unit.
It’s aimed at halting water diversions that can suck dry small streams; unpermitted grading projects that pollute waterways with dirt; and the misuse of toxic pesticides and fertilizers that have been known to poison streams and wildlife.
Water board staff members already have been meeting with medical pot growers in an effort to educate them about responsible water use and farming practices.
“From our outreach efforts and the feedback we have received from the growing community, we anticipate that most cannabis cultivators and landowners will want to work with us,” Mustain said.
Read more via Effort afoot to develop water-use rules for pot | The Press Democrat.
Jeff Barnard, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Water use and other actions by the marijuana industry in the Emerald Triangle of Northern California and Southern Oregon are threatening salmon already in danger of extinction, federal biologists said Tuesday.
Concerns about the impact of pot farming were raised by the NOAA Fisheries Service in its final recovery plan for coho salmon in the region. The full plan was to be posted on the agency’s website.
A copy obtained in advance calls for determining then decreasing the amount of water that pot growers illegally withdraw from creeks where young fish struggle to survive.
Pot is legally grown in the region for medical purposes and illegally for the black market.
Read more via Biologists identify pot gardens as salmon threat | The Press Democrat.
Ryan Burns, LOST COAST OUTPOST
Just northwest of Fortuna, the Lower Eel River seems to disappear.
A YouTube video posted yesterday to SFGate.com claimed that the Eel has stopped flowing altogether, which is not strictly accurate. The video above, which was shot this morning, shows that the Eel simply goes underground for a stretch, running beneath the surface of the gravel riverbed before reemerging about 100-200 yards north.
Regardless, this is an alarming and worrisome development for the third-largest watershed in California. We spoke with Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, about the factors that led to this situation — primarily California’s beyond-extreme drought but also the warm weather and countless illegal water diversions irrigating our county’s illicit marijuana grows — as well as some measures that could be taken to improve things.
“I’m really disturbed,” Greacen said. Low flows in the Eel can be disastrous for fish such as chinook salmon, steelhead trout and especially coho salmon, which need to live in the river a full year before running out to the ocean, according to Greacen. And when flows are low — or go underground — it destroys the breeding grounds for insects that fish rely on. “When you don’t have flow you don’t have food,” Greacen said.
Read more and see video via Why the Eel River Disappeared and What It Means for Fish | Lost Coast Outpost | Humboldt County.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Deep in a private Mendocino Coast forest, trees and brush give way to terraced clearings, miles of crisscrossing black irrigation tubing and campsites littered with cooking pans, empty food and beer cans, sleeping bags and toxic pesticides. They are the remnants of a marijuana garden where a multi-agency law enforcement effort last year seized more than 8,000 plants.
The environmental damage here is a microcosm of what’s happening nationwide as illegal pot cultivation continues to thrive despite decades of eradication efforts. Marijuana operations claiming to be medicinal, and thus legal in California, also are expanding exponentially, largely without regulation.
Marijuana growers have clear cut forests, eroded hillsides, dammed, polluted and sucked dry streams and poisoned wildlife. It’s not uncommon to find dead animals near pot gardens, wildlife officials say.
“This is probably the worst environmental crime I have ever seen in my life. It is literally ripping out the resources of this state,” said California Fish and Wildlife Capt. Nathaniel Arnold, who heads the department’s marijuana enforcement team.
via Cleaning up after pot growers challenges North Coast | The Press Democrat.
With surge in pot gardens, experts warn of ‘staggering’ destruction of habitats, likelihood of North Coast streams running dry.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Streams in Northern California’s prime marijuana-growing watersheds likely will be sucked dry this year if pot cultivation isn’t curtailed, experts say.
“Essentially, marijuana can consume all the water. Every bit of it,” said state Fish and Wildlife Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Bauer, who specializes in salmon recovery and is working on a study of the issue. The findings, expected to be released soon, shed new light on a massive, largely unregulated industry in California that has been blamed for polluting streams and forests with pesticides and trash and for bulldozing trees and earth to make clearings for gardens.
A sharp increase in water-intensive pot cultivation, exacerbated by drought conditions, adds to the habitat degradation and threatens to undo decades of costly fish restoration efforts, Bauer said.
“The destruction of habitat is actually quite staggering,” said Patrick Foy, a spokesman with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Last year, 24 North Coast salmon-bearing tributaries were reported to have gone dry, Bauer said, though not all were verified by the agency. Even without drought, there isn’t going to be enough water to meet the pot industry’s growing demand, Bauer said.
via Marijuana’s thirst depleting North Coast watersheds | The Press Democrat.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
With illegal marijuana cultivation wreaking environmental havoc across the nation, North Coast Reps. Mike Thompson and Jared Huffman are seeking new penalties for harm done to woodlands, waterways and wildlife.
The two Democrats, joined by a pair of Republicans, introduced the Protecting Lands Against Narcotics Trafficking Act, nicknamed the PLANT Act, aimed at imposing penalties for environmental damage from pot gardens and other illegal drug production on public lands and private property.
via Harsher penalties sought for illegal pot farmers | The Press Democrat.
Felicity Barringer, THE NEW YORK TIMES
ARCATA, Calif. — It took the death of a small, rare member of the weasel family to focus the attention of Northern California’s marijuana growers on the impact that their huge and expanding activities were having on the environment.
The animal, a Pacific fisher, had been poisoned by an anticoagulant in rat poisons like d-Con. Since then, six other poisoned fishers have been found. Two endangered spotted owls tested positive. Mourad W. Gabriel, a scientist at the University of California, Davis, concluded that the contamination began when marijuana growers in deep forests spread d-Con to protect their plants from wood rats.
via Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests and Wildlife – NYTimes.com.