On 8/17/2021, The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) Special Investigations Unit (SIU), along with Nevada County Cannabis Compliance, California State Water Resource Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Calfire and California State Parks executed several marijuana search warrants. Over the past several months NCSO SIU has been investigating numerous marijuana cultivation sites that appear to have severe negative environment impacts, including dangers to public waterways and dangers fish and wildlife.

During the search warrant executions, NCSO targeted two locations in the 18000 block of Gaston Road, one location in the 21000 block of Erin Place and one location in the 21000 block of Highway 49. During the investigations, dozens of Water Code and Fish and Game Code violations were noted, including discharging waste into waterways, negligent waste discharge requirements, oil and/or petroleum discharge into waterways, illegal water theft/diversion from public waterway, trash and debris introduced into waterways, marijuana cultivation within 100 yards of a Class 1 stream.

Both Erin Place and the Highway 49 locations bordered the Wolf Creek Class 1 stream. Detectives located three water pumps that were taking water from the stream and feeding large water storage tanks that were used for watering the marijuana gardens. Erin Place had a gas-powered water pump with 2-inch water hose running from the creek to a storage tank approximately two hundred yards away. The water pump, along with four gas containers were within several feet of the stream. There was also a burnt pickup truck which had caught fire within several yards of the creek.

Dozens of yards of topsoil, along with numerous open containers of hazardous fertilizers were also located within close proximity of watersheds and posed a real pollution threat to the public water come the winter rainfall season or any excessive water runoff. All of the locations contained fire hazards with unsafe electrical practices, including running generators, exposed electrical cords on top of dry weeds and pine needles, and open gas cans.

Detectives contacted approximately 12 individuals at the gardens who were all in violation by not obtaining the proper permits to conduct such large operations. One of the gardens had a constant running water-hose wasting water at a time of severe drought.

At the conclusion of the operation, over 5000 marijuana plants were eradicated and over thirty felony violations were identified. Four criminal cases will be filed with the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office, along with California Waterboards and Fish and Wildlife reports once the investigation is complete.

Sheriff Moon is committed to identifying egregious marijuana grows that present serious environmental concerns and a danger to the community. There is a pathway for permitted and legal marijuana cultivation through the Nevada County Community Development Agency, however harm to the watershed and environment will be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.