Weitchpec Grow Sites Show Signs of Environmental Damage

Weitchpec Grow Sites Show Signs of Environmental Damage

The Yurok Tribal Police Department plans to continue its search of marijuana grow sites in the Weitchpec area as the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office finishes up its role in this year’s operation. The initial week of activity resulted in seizure of over 30,000 cannabis plants and 1,000 pounds of processed marijuana.

The Sheriff’s Office served search warrants to commercial marijuana growing operations between July 13 and July 15. In addition to the Yurok Tribal Police Department, they were joined by the Humboldt County Drug Task Force, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), and the State of California, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), among others. Altogether, the groups served seven state warrants and one tribal warrant.

According to the Sherriff’s Office, the groups found evidence of significant land use violations. Lt. Wayne Hanson said,

“All 20 warrants sites had serious environmental damage.”

Andrew Hughan, spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, stated that streambed violations were common to all the sites. Water diversion is a particularly onerous violation as California has been operating under drought conditions for the last four years.

The searches have been initiated in part due to notable water diversion from community water resources. Yurok Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke said,

“That’s our drinking water storage.”

Other environmental damages noted by the groups were illegal dumping and land grading. The latter could negatively affect wildlife and the watershed by allowing chemical fertilizers to leach into water sources. Chemicals could be carried and deposited far from the original site. Hughan noted that the growers had used chemical fertilizers liberally on the plants.

He also stated that the search groups would leave the cleanup to the homeowners who own the property. It will be their responsibility to manage the disposal of trash heaps weighing in the tons.

O’Rourke stated that the Yurok Tribal Police Department, the National Guard and the Bureau of Indian Affairs would keep at the search “until it’s done,” and then start again next year.

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