Trinity County developers cited for water quality violations related to cannabis cultivation

By on September 27, 2017

Trinity County developer Clay Tucker, and several corporations with which he is associated, have been cited for violations of federal and state law for property either sold or leased to other parties for cannabis cultivation. The California Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, filed a civil complaint in Trinity County Superior Court against Tucker alleging properties were developed in the Indian Creek Watershed in Trinity County which caused harmful and unlawful discharge of pollutants and dredge and fill material into the watershed.

The Sept. 11, 2017 complaint names Tucker, Independence Corporate Offices, Inc., and Rincon Landholdings, LLC as defendants. It alleges the defendants conducted site development and road-building activities without proper permits on properties near Indian Creek, a tributary to the Middle Fork of the Trinity River and caused the above stated issues. The complaint seeks civil liability and a preliminary and permanent injunction against the defendants, requiring that they take immediate action to correct the conditions created by their activities.

“Unpermitted and irresponsible land clearing and development activity associated with cannabis cultivation is a serious and significant threat to water quality in the North Coast. This action highlights the Regional Water Board’s commitment to focusing its enforcement efforts on those causing the most environmental damage.” said Matt St. John, Executive Director of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Cannabis cultivation in California has become an issue for water managers, environmentalists and the State Water Resources Control Board, among others. As the marijuana market continues to expand its cultivation has had significant ecological impacts.

“The problem with the weed industry is that its impacts are severe, it’s not effectively regulated, and it’s growing so rapidly,” said Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, in an October 2013 article by Seth Zuckerman in The Nation. The Eel River runs through the heart of the marijuana belt.

Opponents to the rapid rise in cannabis cultivation cite a variety of ecological issues with the growing industry ranging from creek beds coated with silt and mud, rivers adjacent to weed fields laden with algae, shrunken and muddied streams, and topsoil shaved away to level growing sites.  Probably worst of all is the impact on water quality from chemicals like fertilizers, miticides and commercial pesticides.

The State Water Resources Control Board is currently developing and implementing new regulatory programs to address potential water quality and quantity issues related to cannabis cultivation and to meet the directives of Senate Bill (SB) 837 (Statutes 2016, Chapter 32, Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review) and the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. For further information go to: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/cannabis/.