A cannabis cultivator will have to pay $1.75 million to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for building and diverting water from illegal onstream reservoirs without first obtaining permits required by the California Water Boards and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
The settlement, approved by a Humboldt County Superior Court judge this week, resolves violations by Joshua Sweet and his companies, The Hills LLC and Shadow Light Ranch LLC. The SWRCB alleges the Sweet destroyed wetland habitat and stream channels and converted oak woodland to grow cannabis without obtaining the necessary permits.
The settlement stipulates that if Sweet completes restoration of the damaged property by 2026, $1 million of the penalty will be suspended. This work includes the removal of three unauthorized reservoirs and the rehabilitation of stream channels and damaged wetlands.
Additionally, he is required to obtain all the necessary permits, cease unauthorized water diversions and use of water, restrict future property development and comply with all applicable regulations.
“It is critical for all cannabis cultivators to be environmentally responsible and protect California’s water supply and water quality,” said Taro Murano, program manager for the State Water Board’s Division of Water Rights cannabis enforcement section. “Sweet chose to operate his business while ignoring regulations designed to protect the environment. He must now remediate the environmental damage he caused and pay a significant penalty. No one should get a business advantage by ignoring the law and harming the environment.”
Sweet must pay $500,000 to the Division of Water Rights, $175,000 to the North Coast Water Board, and $75,000 to CDFW over five years.