With the South Fork Eel River Drying Up, Illegal Marijuana Grows Continue to Steal Water

Press Release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

On Sept. 20, 2021, wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) served a search warrant in the 9000 block of Branscomb Road in Mendocino County. The search warrant was part of an investigation into suspected unlawful cannabis cultivation and associated environmental crimes.

Support was provided by a CDFW Environmental Scientist and the State Waterboards.

Prior to serving the search warrant, a records check was conducted on the property to determine what steps may have been taken to secure a state commercial cannabis license. In this case, no state license or county permit to cultivate commercial cannabis had been issued.

The property was located in the South Fork Eel River watershed, which supports several threatened and endangered species, including steelhead trout and Coho salmon as well as bird species such as the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl.

California is currently experiencing a historic drought. Unlawful cannabis cultivation operations of this nature can pollute the land and divert water from nearby waterways with historic low flows, which can greatly impact fish and aquatic species who may rely on cold cool water to spawn and survive.

Numerous environmental violations were documented, including two surface water diversions and a large trash pile near a waterway.

Over 590 illegal cannabis plants were eradicated and over 150 pounds of illegal processed cannabis was destroyed.

A formal complaint will be filed with the Mendocino County District Attorney’s office. No other information is available at this time.

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