California Weed

Shasta County pot farm owner fined $100,000 for fouling watershed

State Department of Fish and Wildlife aerial photo of marijuana plantation and grading that authorities said dumped tons of earth and sediment-laden storm water into a tributary of Clover Creek in Shasta County.
State Department of Fish and Wildlife aerial photo of marijuana plantation and grading that authorities said dumped tons of earth and sediment-laden storm water into a tributary of Clover Creek in Shasta County. Photo courtesy of Department of Fish and Wildlife

A Virginia man who leased out property for a marijuana farm in Shasta County has agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty and complete an extensive environmental cleanup for fouling tributaries with sediment from illegal grading.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board last year recommended a $201,400 fine against Brent Vanderkam of Virginia, who was accused of rerouting tributaries of Shasta’s Clover Creek for a large pot plantation.

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Authorities say the farming operation, with expansive rows of marijuana plants growing between earthen berms, resulted in a discharge of 427 cubic yards of soil and 700,000 gallons of sediment-laden storm water into sensitive watershed near Millville in Shasta County.

The operation was targeted as part of stepped-up state efforts to bring civil actions against marijuana growers who divert water or foul the environment. The civil actions are being accompanied by new efforts to regulate and inspect growers who are willing to work with authorities to monitor water use and other impacts from marijuana cultivation.

The water board said unpermitted dredging work for the Shasta County farm also disturbed 200 linear feet of stream bed. In addition to the $100,000 fine, the settlement agreement requires Vanderkam pay for a cleanup and restoration plan. A consultant for the property owner said that work will cost $95,000 on top of the fine, authorities said.

“The failure of Mr. Vanderkam or his lessee to obtain the necessary permits prior to developing the property for marijuana cultivation resulted in significant impacts to water quality,” said Clint Snyder, assistant executive director for the Central Valley Water Board.

In a statement, Snyder said the settlement terms in the case “reflect the egregious nature of these violations and the importance of holding landowners responsible.”

The water board said Vanderkam refused to identify his cultivating tenant. Officials said he bore responsibility as the property owner for the financial penalty and environmental remediation.

The Shasta County investigation was directed by the water board along with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Shasta County Department of Resource Management as part of a multiagency pilot project to address environmental impacts of marijuana cultivation.

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