BUSINESS

Marijuana farm pays $100,000 for water violation

A Shasta County landowner who leased his property for medical marijuana crops has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine over water pollution, state regulators said Friday.

Brent Alan Vanderkam also will have to restore 2.24 acres where illegal ground clearing led to 427 cubic meters of soil washing into a nearby creek, according to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. That could cost Vanderkam another $95,000, the board said.

Vanderkam was held responsible after he was "unwilling to identify" the person leasing his land, the board said. 

"The settlement terms reflect the egregious nature of these violations and the importance of holding landowners accountable,” said Clint Snyder, assistant executive officer for the board.

The fine was the second to be levied by the board in connection with marijuana farms in Shasta County. Last June, a landowner and grower were assessed a $297,000 fine over similar land-clearance violations. 

Both moves arose from a cannabis inspection program conducted with  state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials in Northern California counties, including Mendocino, Humboldt and Shasta.

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The board also issued an order last fall requiring medical marijuana cultivators to obtain permits to divert or store water, and encouraging them to adopt water-saving technologies such as drip irrigation.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issued an order with similar requirements last year, marking the first time that a state water agency officially set so-called best management practices for marijuana cultivation on the thousands of farms that have been established to supply the state's medicinal marijuana clinics.

Last August, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law expanding the power of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and allowing steep civil fines against marijuana farms that dump wastewater and chemicals, remove trees and trap or kill wild animals.

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The measure was aimed at illegal grow areas that have sprung up on public lands and private property. In 2014, state agents conducted nearly 250 raids that revealed more than 135 dams that diverted 5 million gallons of water from rivers and streams. 

@LATgeoffmohan

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