News Flash

Sheriff's Office

Posted on: July 23, 2021

Marijuana Enforcement Team Watershed Protection Operation

Cannabis plants and a water diversion

During the week of July 19-22, 2021, deputies with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) served 23 search warrants to investigate illegal cannabis cultivation in four Humboldt County watersheds. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Tri County Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT), Humboldt County Code Enforcement, Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services - Environmental Health, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) CalCannabis, California State Water Resources Control Board and California Division of Water Rights assisted in the service of the warrants.

Numerous parcels were investigated during the service of the warrants in the Redwood Creek, Steelhead/Powers Creek, Salmon Creek and Roach/Tulley Creek watersheds. Through scientific studies, these watersheds were identified to be losing waterflow at an alarming rate due to illegal commercial cannabis cultivation. The watersheds are home to protected species such as Coho and Chinook salmon, and Steelhead trout who are already faced with unprecedented drought conditions. Illegal cultivation activities during a drought year put an exuberant amount of pressure on already strained fish and wildlife resources. This week’s eradication effort will help to conserve salmon and steelhead habitat critical for species survival.

None of the parcels investigated possessed the required county permit and state license to cultivate cannabis commercially. In total, deputies eradicated over 35,000 growing cannabis plants and documented approximately 97 environmental violations. During the service of the search warrants, environmental scientists and law enforcement found and documented severe damage to the watersheds. Additionally, juvenile salmonoids were located in dammed pools in the watersheds where water was being pumped out of with large gasoline-powered water pumps.

The following statistics and photographs were recorded during these investigations.

1. Redwood Creek Watershed

On July 19, 2021, teams served seven warrants on parcels in the Redwood Creek Watershed. During the service of the warrants, deputies eradicated approximately 17,082 growing cannabis plants. Deputies seized and destroyed over 618 pounds of cannabis bud and over 3,580 pounds of processed cannabis.

Assisting agencies found the following violations:

  • Twelve (12) water diversion violations (up to $8,000 fine per day, per violation);
  • Three (3) water pollution violations (up to $20,000 fine per day, per violation);
  • Four (4) depositing trash in or near a waterway violations (up to $20,000 fine per day, per violation).

Dammed up creek with 100% of water being pumped out for Illegal cultivationDammed up creek with 100 percent of water being pumped out for Illegal cultivation. Juvenile salmonoids located in pool.
Garbage spread out next to watershed.Garbage spread out next to Redwood Creek watershed.
Packaged cannabis budPackaged cannabis bud.
Green House with flowering cannabis
Greenhouse with flowering cannabis.




2. Steelhead/Powers Creek Watershed

On July 20, 2021, teams served eight warrants on parcels in the Steelhead/Powers Creek Watershed. During the service of the warrants, deputies eradicated approximately 8,918 growing cannabis plants. Deputies seized and destroyed over 17 pounds of cannabis bud and over 1,310 pounds of processed cannabis. 

Assisting agencies found the following violations:

  • Twenty-three (23) water diversion violations (up to $8,000 fine per day, per violation);
  • Nineteen (19) water pollution violations (up to $20,000 fine per day, per violation);
  • Sixteen (16) depositing trash in or near a waterway violations (up to $20,000 fine per day, per violation).
8 feet deep hole dug into creek bed diverting 100% of waterflow to illegal cultivationEight-foot deep hole dug into creek bed diverting 100 percent of waterflow to illegal cultivation.8 feet deep hole dug into creek bed diverting 100% of waterflow to illegal cultivationEight-foot deep hole dug into creek bed diverting 100 percent of waterflow to illegal cultivation.

Cooking shack and garbage spread about.Cooking shack and garbage spread about.
Creek dammed up and 100% of flow being diverted to Illegal cultivationCreek dammed up and 100 percent of flow being diverted to Illegal cultivation.

Creek dammed up and 100% of flow being diverted to Illegal cultivationCreek dammed up and 100 percent of flow being diverted to Illegal cultivationIllegal grading and cultivation.Illegal grading and commercial cannabis cultivation.

 

3. Salmon Creek Watershed

On July 21, 2021, teams served four warrants on parcels in the Salmon Creek Watershed. During the service of the warrants, deputies eradicated approximately 2,205 growing cannabis plants. 

Assisting agencies found the following violations:

  • Six (6) water diversion violations (up to $8,000 fine per day, per violation);
  • Two (2) water pollution violations (up to $20,000 fine per day, per violation);
  • Four (4) depositing trash in or near a waterway violations (up to $20,000 fine per day, per violation).
Dammed up salmon creek with bump in creek diverting 90% of waterflow.Dammed up Salmon Creek with bump in creek diverting 90 percent of waterflow. Juvenile salmonoids located in pool.
90% of waterflow being diverted from waterway.Ninety percent of waterflow being diverted from waterway.

 

4. Roach /Tulley Creek Watershed

On July 22, 2021, teams served four warrants on parcels in the Roach /Tulley Creek Watershed. During the service of the warrants, deputies eradicated approximately 6,922 growing cannabis plants. Deputies seized and destroyed over 55 pounds of processed cannabis.

Assisting agencies found the following violations:

  • Six (6) water diversion violations (up to $8,000 fine per day, per violation);
  • Two (2) water pollution violations (up to $20,000 fine per day, per violation).
Multiple discarded fuel tanksMultiple discarded fuel tanks at illegal cultivation site.
Active water diversion with pumpActive water diversion with pump.
Water pump diverting water from a creekWater pump diverting water from a creek.
Ponded water from illegal diversionPonded water from illegal diversion.
Point of diversion at a dried up creekPoint of diversion at a dried up creek.
Multiple water storage containers, a generator and a gas canMultiple water storage containers, a generator and a discarded gas can.
Multiple water storage containersMultiple water storage containers suspected to be filled through illegal water diversion.
A water container and fuel-powered pumpA water container, filled through illegal water diversion, and a fuel-powered pump.

Significant water diversion causing a creek to run dry.Significant water diversion causing a creek to run dry.


Growing cannabis plantsGrowing cannabis plants.
Cannabis growing outdoorsGrowing cannabis plants.
Cannabis plants with shipping containers in the background

Cannabis plants with shipping containers in the background


Environmental scientists investigate water diversion and storage.Environmental scientists investigate water diversion and storage.



No arrests were made during the service of the warrants. The cases will be forwarded to the DA’s Office for review. Additional violations with civil fines are expected to be filed by the assisting agencies.

Anyone with information about these cases or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.

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