On April 30 and May 1, 2018, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued citations for more than 50 violations at four unregulated marijuana cultivation sites after executing search warrants in Southern Humboldt. These violations included streambed alteration, illegal water diversion and water pollution, impacting watersheds critical to three federally listed salmonid species. In addition to these Fish and Game violations, sheriff’s deputies found violations related to illegal cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and conspiring to commit a crime at all four sites. None of the four sites searched had permits and all were operating outside of the local and state permitting process.
At the first site searched, in the Miller Creek area, CDFW found 20 violations of Fish and Game Code related to detrimental environmental impacts to fish, wildlife and habitat. The inspection teams eradicated 1,714 plants, and destroyed more than 1,000 pounds of processed marijuana. During the search, more than $3 million in cash was discovered and seized for asset forfeiture. Jesus Olea Vielma, 31, of Fortuna was taken into custody and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility. At the second site in the China Creek area, the inspection team discovered multiple buildings with growing marijuana plants inside. CDFW found six violations of Fish and Game Code. The inspection teams eradicated 5,177 plants and destroyed approximately 43 pounds of processed marijuana. Alejandro Navarro Ruvalcaba, 43, of Garberville was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility.
At the third site searched, in the Blue Slide Creek area, records show the property began the permit process in 2016 with Humboldt County but never completed the application. Inspection teams found five buildings with marijuana plants CDFW found six violations of Fish and Game Code. These growers were using a direct water diversion from Blue Slide Creek. Teams destroyed 1,276 marijuana plants and 100 pounds of processed marijuana. William Bert Paulsin, 59, of Hemet was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility. At the final site, also in the Blue Slide Creek area, one large structure had marijuana plants growing inside. CDFW found 22 violations of Fish and Game Code. The growers had constructed several large ponds onsite. Teams destroyed 301 marijuana plants and 203 pounds of processed marijuana. State and local efforts to eliminate illegal and environmentally harmful operations like these helps legal marijuana cultivators thrive in this newly regulated industry. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with the CDFW to address non-permitted grow sites.