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Nevada County: Release: Authorities investigate marijuana grows for environmental crimes

The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit, along with Nevada County Cannabis Compliance, California State Water Resource Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Cal Fire and California State Parks, executed several marijuana search warrants.

Over the past several months the Sheriff’s Office has been investigating numerous marijuana cultivation sites that appear to have severe negative environment impacts, including dangers to public waterways and fish and wildlife.

During the search warrant executions, authorities targeted two locations in the 18000 block of Gaston Road — one in the 21000 block of Erin Pace and the other in the 21000 block of Highway 49. During the investigations, dozens of water code, and fish and game code, violations were noted, including discharging waste into waterways, negligent waste discharge requirements, oil and/or petroleum discharge into waterways, illegal water theft/diversion from a public waterway, trash and debris introduced into waterways, and marijuana cultivation within 100 yards of a Class 1 stream.

Both Erin Place and the Highway 49 locations bordered the Wolf Creek Class 1 stream. Detectives located three water pumps that were taking water from the stream and feeding large water storage tanks that were used for watering the marijuana gardens. Erin Place had a gas-powered water pump with a 2-inch water hose running from the creek to a storage tank approximately 200 yards away. The water pump, along with four gas containers, were within several feet of the stream. There was also a burnt pickup truck which had caught fire within several yards of the creek.

Dozens of yards of topsoil, along with numerous open containers of hazardous fertilizers, were also located within close proximity of watersheds, posing a real pollution threat to the public water come the winter rainfall season or any excessive water runoff. All of the locations contained fire hazards with unsafe electrical practices, including running generators, exposed electrical cords on top of dry weeds and pine needles, and open gas cans.

Detectives contacted approximately 12 people at the gardens who were all in violation by not obtaining the proper permits to conduct such large operations. One of the gardens had a constant running water hose, wasting water at a time of severe drought.

At the conclusion of the operation, over 5,000 marijuana plants were eradicated and over 30 felony violations were identified. Four criminal cases will be filed with the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office, along with the state water board and Fish and Wildlife, once the investigation is complete.

Sheriff Shannan Moon is committed to identifying egregious marijuana grows that present serious environmental concerns and a danger to the community. There is a pathway for permitted and legal marijuana cultivation through the Nevada County Community Development Agency. Harm to the watershed and environment will be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.

Source: Nevada County Sheriff’s Office

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