As The Green Rush Explodes in Rural Neighborhoods, Conflicts Grow and a Community Calls a Meeting

A marijuana garden in the Willow Creek area in 2015 has over 1400 plants on excavated flats. Large grows like these worry rural communities in Humboldt | Photo courtesy of Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
A marijuana garden in the Willow Creek area in 2015 has over 1400 plants on excavated flats. Large grows like these worry rural communities in Humboldt | Photo courtesy of Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office

Rural watersheds across the Emerald Counties feel the strain as the Green Rush has exploded this last decade. Marijuana gardens are growing bigger and more remote properties are converting to cannabis farms. Pam Walker, a dispatcher for Southern Trinity Area Rescue and a resident of the Bridgeville area, along with many other residents, wants to understand how to deal with a host of new problems.

On Thursday, June 30 at 1 p.m. at Bridgeville Community Center, Walker has invited local residents to meet with Supervisor Estelle Fennell, a member of the Humboldt County Planning Department, a representative from Fish and Wildlife, a Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputy and someone from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

This is not an anti-cannabis meeting. In fact, I wish it would legalize….I’ve never been upset about people growing pot,” Walker said, “but it’s just like it’s the Wild West now. There’s no laws.” She worries that the new County regulations for medical marijuana are going to increase the confusion and further impact the lives of those who have lived in the area for years.

A Larabee Valley property that concerns neighbors | Photo courtesy of Friends of the Eel River
A Larabee Valley property that concerns neighbors | Photo courtesy of Friends of the Eel River

Walker described seeing what she called “a big grow” being built in the Larrabee Valley. “They said they had been permitted…But none of those permits have been okayed yet….They bulldozed in big flats….They are pulling all the water. Is that going to affect our water?”

After that, the community decided to ask for clarification on what the new county medical marijuana rules meant for them. “We talked with other neighbors and contacted Estelle Fennel,” she explained.

Walker said that she is worried about losing a way of life. “Most people who came out years ago came out for the peace and quiet but now we have super big glows from the greenhouses and the sound of generators at three in morning,” she pointed out. Other concerns that she and her neighbors have include increased traffic by drivers inexperienced on narrow country roads, unrestrained dogs that kill cattle, chickens and pets, as well as loss of families who are committed to their community. (A complete agenda is at the bottom of this article.) The growers moving into the area to take advantage of the Green Rush aren’t families with roots in the area, Walker said.

“This has really impacted our school,” she explained. “Our enrollment has really dropped….Families can’t really afford to buy land… .”

The environment is also another big concern. The Green Rush is only the latest in a series of economic booms that have busted after damaging the land around her, she said. “I’ve lived up here for 40 years,” she explained. “It seemed like our hills were recovering a bit from the abuse of logging and now we’re seeing the abuse come back. When [the Green Rush] busts, I don’t know if our land can recover from it.”

But. perhaps, most importantly, she worried about increasing violence. “A young man was beat up here for trying to use water that his family had used for years. He was told by the growers that he couldn’t use it anymore.”

The Green Rush, she said, should not be able to destroy a way of life. “I think it should not be to the detriment of the environment and the people who are living out there,” she stated.

The coming meeting with government officials is an attempt to get some answers on how to deal with her new neighbors. “We’ll have some questions answered about how things will be enforced,” she explained. “These guys have enough money that they don’t care about fines…They just pay but that doesn’t help our environment.”

  Agenda of issues to be addressed at the meeting Thursday:
I. water usage
   a. permitting large grows using huge quantities of water
   b. how do residents protect their water
   c. what do we do if our water runs dry because of over use by large grows
   d. what are our recourses  when some one above you bulldozes huge flats and totally ruins your water shed and creek
 II. Planning Dept rules
   a. is it okay to move vast quantities of earth without permits, who makes sure its done right and will not affect the water shed
   b. is it okay to bulldoze trees down and use them and dirt as a base for a growing flat
   c. what is in place for enforcement on these large grows other than just fining them
  III. Fish and Wildlife, environmental degradation
      a.vast amounts of earth being moved without regard to seasonal creeks or year round creeks packs running down wildlife
      c. over use of fertilizer (whether its organic or not ) running into the watershed
      d.the illegal and misuse of poisons, pesticides, fungicides
      f. what happens to all the soil that growers replace every year
      g. garbage dumps on the property containing all the above and human waste
  IV. Resident Deputy and law enforcement
      a. people shooting off guns, big guns and sometimes rapid fire guns, in the middle of the night
      b. shooting guns right next to our elementary school
      c. loud generators running all night
      d. stock being killed or maimed by loose dogs
      e. residents getting beat up over water
   V. Highway 36
      a. due to the increase of traffic caused by all the grow farms there has been an increase of traffic accidents, in fact it is darn terrifying to drive this road. trucks are passing other cars on double yellow blind curves, people driving so fast they can not stay in their own lane, semi trucks full of dirt bags don’t stay on their side of the road.
Article by: Kym Kemp
Published by: Redheaded Blackbelt