Taking back the foothills

County supervisor calls on the community to join environmental battle

The author is Butte County supervisor for the 1st District, which includes Oroville and the eastern foothill communities.

Recent news articles discussed the fight Butte County is waging to save the purity of our drinking water from some pretty nasty individuals cultivating marijuana. We are not talking about Granny’s backyard grows. These are pot plantations run by criminals from other states and counties. These people are responsible for illegal wells and illegal septic systems, if they bother to install either.

They are diverting water from streams, damming up springs, and in some instances trucking water. The added heavy traffic damages roads with impunity. These people are clear-cutting and grading entire hillsides. They then spray the nude ground with herbicides, throw around rat poison, and spray pesticides to make more profit from their cash crop. If other farmers did this, they would be in jail.

This winter, these graded hillsides will cause massive runoffs. The mud and accumulated chemicals will stream down into the Feather River and Lake Oroville. There are no mediation plans in place—no swales, retention ponds or means of prevention. Meanwhile, the California State Water Resources Control Board, under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown, is ignoring potentially one of the biggest environmental disasters in the history of our state.

Numerous meetings with Assemblyman Dan Logue and Sen. Jim Nielsen have not yet moved the bureaucrats in Sacramento. They claim too much danger, and wring their hands and explain, “We only go after legitimate business.” Meanwhile, the Butte County code-enforcement officials carry no firearms. They do their jobs unarmed. If needed, armed Butte County Sheriff’s deputies or armed state Fish and Wildlife officers go with them.

The silence within the environmental community on this issue is deafening. If ever there was a call to action, this should be it. From the Sierra Club on down, everyone should be in this fight.

Pour yourself a glass of water. Now add a teaspoon of Roundup, a teaspoon of nitrates, some cyanide and some mud for good measure. No sane person would drink this, but this is what is happening to our drinking water. The state places controls on water quality, which other farmers have followed for years. It is time for illegal pot growers to stop putting their massive profits ahead of the safety of our families. It is time for reluctant state officials to do their jobs! Enforce the law on the gross polluters.