“In our fourth year of this historic drought, we have to find ways to protect our fisheries from the impacts of the driest years on record, and the devastating impacts of rogue marijuana grows. The combination of the drought and rogue grows have resulted in unprecedented damage to our state’s watersheds, they have put endangered species on the brink and are hammering away at our coastal and port economy.” – North Coast Senator Mike McGuire
With that in mind, Senator McGuire, chairman of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, hosts today’s “Fish, Flows and Marijuana Grows” hearing to examine the impacts of the historic drought and marijuana grows on the state’s fisheries and natural resources.
The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in Room 2040 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. You can watch and listen to the livestream via the Senate’s website, but for those who can’t spend the workday glued to televised government, Your Week in Ocean columnist (and Northcoast Environmental Center Coastal Programs Director) yours truly has braved the 108-degree heat in order to live-blog the hearing highlights for all those interested in the subject matter.
The hearing brings together fishery experts, state agency leaders, commercial and recreational fishing representatives, river advocates and cannabis industry proponents:
- John Laird – Secretary, Natural Resources Agency
- Charlton Bonham – Director, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Thomas Howard – Executive Director, State Water Resources Control Board
- John McManus – Executive Director, Golden Gate Salmon Association
- Tim Sloane – Director of Programs, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association
- DeWayne Little – Lieutenant, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Scott Greacen – Executive Director, Friends of the Eel River
- Tom Allman – Sheriff, Mendocino County
- Lawrence Dwight – Rancher, California Cattlemen’s Association
- Hezekiah Allen – Executive Director, Emerald Growers Association
Sitting on the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture with Chair McGuire are: Vice Chair Assemblymember Jim Wood, Senator Jerry Hill, Senator Jim Nielsen, Senator Fran Pavley, Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, Assemblymember Philip Ting and Assemblymember Das Williams.
Friends of the Eel River Executive Director, Scott Greacen, contributes to the conversation:
Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Scott Greacen thanks Senator McGuire and Assemblymember Wood for leading efforts to address a really difficult problem. “We’re going to need more of that.” It’s well established that the commercial marijuana industry is overwhelming critical watersheds and driving fish extinct.
Fish were pushed to brink by the impacts of logging and road building, but it’s the impacts of marijuana pushing them over the edge. He likens diversion and sedimentation to heart attack and cancer – a double blow that makes recovery nearly impossible.
Regarding water permits, Greacen references when Rio Dell lost its junior water rights in 2014 while thousands of illegal diversions existed above the town. There’s been only 420 water rights sought in all of history, Greacen says, but we’re looking at 3,000 to 5,000 diversions in the Eel River basin.
We need clear rules, he says, and the North Coast environmental community strongly supports legal grows up to 2,000 square feet for the average household. Unfortunately CCVH is looking to legalize larger grows, and if that happens then, those grows should be cited on land suited for and zoned appropriately.
CCVH’s reaction to the Island Mountain bust shows they view those involved not as criminals but as constituents.
We need enforcement resources and, Greacen emphasizes, nothing on the table right now provides that backstop. “We don’t have it yet, and we must have it if we are to protect our public trust resources.”
Finally, he says, as difficult as it is to rein in what’s currently illegal, it will be even more difficult to pull back improperly granted rights once given.