Andrew Goff / Wednesday, July 1 @ 2:26 p.m. / Crime
UPDATE, 5:01 p.m.: Catalyst member Mike Robinson tells the Outpost that Arcata Police have returned the fireworks. The word police gave him is that a few juveniles were responsible for the heist and are now megabusted.
“We’ll be up and running again tomorrow,” Robinson told LoCO.
Original Post: As we’ve heard, freedom isn’t free, but last night some wrong-headed, America-loving thieves believed that the best annual fireworks supply should be. For them, at least.
A fireworks booth located in the Valley West Shopping Center parking lot and operated by members of Catalyst Church had over a thousand dollars worth of celebratory explosives lifted from it. According to co-pastor and LoCO contributor Bethany Cseh, the crooks cut through several locks that secured the booth’s adjacent storage unit. Naturally, they snagged the best kaboomers.
“The big six-hundred dollar one was stolen and a few one-hundred dollar packages,” said Cseh. “They’re still taking inventory.”
As per the nature of the nonprofits fireworks industry, the church is liable for the cost of the missing fireworks. Anyone with information should call Arcata Police at 707-822-2428.
Humboldt County Superior Court Calendar: Monday
No current incidents
CHIV’D: Defense motion to continue Rodney Ortiz homicide jury trial develops a matter of laughter for defendants; 995 motion to dismiss certain charges against Vincent Ortiz will be decided by next week
Tuluwat Examiner: A hand up, instead of a reward…….?
Andrew Goff / Wednesday, July 1 @ 1:46 p.m. / Traffic
The Facebook news tentacle of our local Caltrans district has again provided the world with some aerial shots of where they’re at with construction on the often controversial Willits Bypass project.
“Like” them, if you so choose, below.
PREVIOUS WILLITS BYPASS:
- Willits Bypass Falsework Collapses, Three Injured
- Willits Bypass Pushed Back to 2017; Caltrans Blames Environmental Groups
- Caltrans Can Restart Construction on the Willits Bypass Friday
- Willits Bypass Work Suspended Indefinitely
- Work Stopped on Willits Bypass; Army Corps of Engineers Revokes Permit
- EPIC: Federal Court Says ‘Destructive Willits Bypass’ is Actually A-OK; Construction to Proceed
- The LA Times Talks Willits Bypass
- Willits Bypass Construction Will Cause Traffic Delays
- Protestors Hang Banner From Crane to Highlight Concerns about Willits Bypass
- Two Protesters Lockdown at Willits Bypass Construction Area/Photographer Arrested
- (VIDEO) Why We Need The Willits Bypass: Burger Razor Blades
- The Battle for the Little Lake Valley: Debating the Willits Bypass, Pros and Cons (Part III of III)
- The Battle for the Little Lake Valley: Debating the Willits Bypass, Pros and Cons (Part II of III)
- The Battle for the Little Lake Valley: Debating the Willits Bypass, Pros and Cons (Part I of III)
- Pretty Intense Video From Today’s Willits Treesit Extractions
- Reports that Tree Sitters are Being Extracted from Willits Bypass
- Seven Arrested in Willits Bypass Protest Today, Says Earth First
- Battle for Hearts and Minds Heats Up On Willits Bypass: Caltrans Puts Up Website and Anti-Bypass Crowd Offers Nude Photo Shoot
- Willits Bypass Goes Forward
- EPIC and the Center for Biological Diversity Seek to Halt Construction of the Willits Bypass
- Freeway to Go Around Willits
Andrew Goff / Wednesday, July 1 @ 11:53 a.m. / Our Culture
OMGOMGOMG. Superstar actress and one-time Spiderman girlfriend Kirsten Dunst has arrived in Humboldt County, part of preproduction for her upcoming film Woodshock. The star was spotted today acquainting herself with Arcata, reports one of LoCO‘s Facebook friends in an excited wall post. She is expected to be working here for the better part of July.
Hi, Kirsten Dunst!
Info about Woodshock is scarce in the online wilderness. LoCO is leaning on this Hollywood Reporter article which notes that the film will mark the feature directorial debut of fashion designer sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, friends of Dunst. In that article and in several others we are provided with the vaguest possible film description: “Plot details are being kept under tight wraps, but the storyline is described as an original concept derived from a screenplay written by the duo that’s been in development for several years.” So, yeah, we got nothing.
Oh wait, here’s a synopsis from some casting industry website which may or may not be reliable (June is over!):
A woman falls deeper into paranoia after taking a deadly drug.
With Kirsten Dunst.
Produced by Waypoint Entertainment and COTA films.
Shoots in June in Eureka, Calif.
Drugs! Naturally, the Internet would like to see Kirsten Dunst standing with McKinley or a Redwood tree or something. If you are politely able to capture her image, be a dear and send it our way.
PREVIOUS HUMBOLDT CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS:
Hank Sims / Wednesday, July 1 @ 8:17 a.m. / Crime
PREVIOUSLY: EPD: Bank Robber Caught After Short Foot Pursuit
From the District Attorney’s Office:
On June 30, 2015, the jury found 28-year-old Tracey Dontaye Drew guilty of robbery, a felony, and resisting a peace officer, a misdemeanor.
On October 9, 2014 the defendant entered the Eureka Chase Bank while concealing his identity by covering himself with a trash bag and face mask. Mr. Drew announced the robbery and threatened to kill anyone who called the police. He left the bank with over $10,000 but was apprehended by Eureka Police Officers after a short pursuit.
The case was tried by Deputy District Attorney Brie Bennett, with assistance from District Attorney Investigator Jack Bernstein. The defendant was represented at trial by Deputy Public Defender Owen Tipps. Judge Joyce Hinrichs presided over the nine-day trial.
In addition to bank employees present during the robbery, testimony was given by six members of the Eureka Police Department: Detectives John Gordon and Todd Wilcox, retired Captain Anthony Zanotti, Officers Tim Jones, Kyle Miyamura and Beau Southwell.
Judge Hinrichs will sentence the defendant on July 28, 2015. The maximum sentence for these crimes is five years in prison.
‘Fish, Flows and Marijuana Grows’: Live-Blogging Senator McGuire’s Hearing Examining Impacts of Marijuana Grows on State’s Fisheries
(This post is updating with the latest info at the top. To read chronologically, start at the bottom. You can also watch the livestream via the Senate webpage – scroll down to “Joint Committee on Fisheries & Aquaculture”)
Senator Mike McGuire, left, and Assemblymember Jim Wood. By Jennifer Savage.
McGuire closes the hearing by saying, “The longer we wait, the worse of an impact we’re going to see related to our environment and our communities” and pitching his medical marijuana legislation. “We need one bill,” he says. “That would be the easiest to follow for the state and best when it comes to a regulatory framework.”
On the issue of drought, “I don’t want to make any assumptions, but I believe in climate change. It’s time for us to be able to change. We’ll need to work together to get through this crisis related to fisheries.”
Assemblymember Wood offers his final thoughts: Without a sound structure around what is legal for medical marijuana, we will see an explosion of industry well beyond what we see now… There are definitely people who are trying to do the right thing. The basis of the Watershed Enforcement Team is around helping people do the right thing.
As you look at regulation, policies and taxation, all the things that come with legitimizing business in California, you have to be careful. An industry that’s been in the shadows and then is hit with a heavy regulatory burden may go further underground… It’s amazing we’ve gone so far and let this go so long that now we’re faced with almost a hard deadline as we go forward.
Woods notes that he and McGuire are two freshman legislators and calls the marijuana-related issues “deeply personal to both of us.” He calls for a structure to be created in order to protect the environment, make sure people are able to go out and feel safe on public lands. “For the first time, multiple bills [aimed at regulating medical marijuana] in multiple houses are going forward and that gives me tremendous hope.”
Emerald Growers Association Executive Director Hezekiah Allen gets in on the sandwich action, provided by Senator McGuire. By Jennifer Savage.
McGuire notes that multiple economies have been built on illegal grows, they bring in tens of millions of dollars, the reason we have squishy numbers is we’re unregulated. “This is insane. This state would never allow any other industry to go so long. I don’t understand why there isn’t an outcry.”
He says constituents in Trinity County told his staff that large criminal growers actually shut down county roads, would not allow neighbors to return – “and they’re armed. Why are we allowing this in California?”
McGuire says he hopes this will be the year the legislature has the backbone to pass comprehensive medical marijuana legislation – “too many people died over expansion of this industry.”
Allen begins by saying he believes partnerships are essential to solving these problems and providing some background regarding his and his family’s involvement in growing marijuana. “I’ve had trouble with law enforcement,” he says. “I’ve had friends killed” and in jail. This is impacting everyone, farmers included.
He decries the continuation of drug war, calling the Island Mountain raids a case in point, referring to the busts as having taken place on “small farms” whose proprietors have now had their “livelihoods devasted.” Pointing to the well-publicized photo of a Humboldt County sheriff standing on top of a giant water bladder, Allen says, “I’m thrilled to see [that level of storage] – that’s the solution.”
Enforcement/raids won’t work, he says. Showing up with guns? “We run, we hide.” Growers are scared. Let us work with consultants and technical support agencies. Watershed Enforcement Teams will work. Inspectors, licenses, distinguishing between criminal and unregulated, improving access to support programs, outreach and education will work. This is commercial agriculture, regulate it, please. We would rather pay taxes than fines. “We’re farmers, not criminals.”
McGuire introduces and takes a moment to thank Emerald Growers Association Executive Director Hezekiah Allen’s contributions, saying Allen has been “neck deep” in the politics and agreeing with Allen’s longstanding assertion that a majority of growers want to be able to comply with state rules and regulations.”
Allman continues to say this new abuse of land is a thumbing of the nose at law and society, if want to make difference, this is the turning point. He ends asking for laws to be made clear and consistent, saying Prop. 215 has created a huge gray area that law enforcement has to interpret.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman says, “Wildlife, water and weed is what we’re seeing in Mendocino County.” He reminisces about growing up in Garberville, notes little did they know people moving in were actually setting up responsible marijuana grows. “Old hippies are not the problem.” Twenty-year-olds using Prop. 215 to make a million dollars in a year are. He thought he’d seen the worst, but last week’s Island Mountain bust was “in your face… not cartels, [but] rich white people grows making millions.”
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.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lieutenant DeWayne Little recapped the ways in which the department has witnessed steady progression in the size and number of marijuana grows over the past several years.
These include high density habitat fragmentation throughout Northern California. Natural resources impacts associated include water diversion, pollutants (sediment, petroleum products, fertilizers and pesticides), no best management practices, no riparian or stream protections.
In June, 2015 several major rivers are at or near historic lows including the Van Duzen, Eel River, Redwood Creek and Trinity. What is contributing? Larger grows than ever; diversions and dry streams; new and poorly constructed ponds; grow site development including the moving of streams; improper road construction – all displayed through a series of horrifying slides.
Golden Gate Salmon Association Executive Director John McManus provides an overview of what’s happening in the Sacramento Valley, a critical area for the majority of Pacific Northwest salmon – and what’s happening is not good. In 2014, out of 195 million fall-run eggs laid, only 3.5 million hatched (about two percent) and many of those later died in dried up tributaries. Warm water from Shasta could cause the 2014 salmon disaster to repeat this year.
This massive loss of fish hurts both coastal and inland communities. Also, let’s clear up any misperception of how much money is currently going to help protect the salmon fishery, McManus says.
State Water Control Board Executive Director Thomas Howard talks about cannabis activities the board partners on with DFW, specifically regulatory programs, targeted enforcement, and outreach and education. “We’ve been discussing this with just about everyone imaginable,” he says. Development of regulations have been drafted for the North Coast and are expected to be adopted next month. The permitting program will require cannabis cultivators to enroll, comply with management practices to protect water quality and pay a fee. Watersheds identified as ones needing established public trust flows include the Scott and the South Fork of the Eel.
Bonham continues. California Department of Fish & Wildlife had 24,000 contacts in the past year related to grows, mostly on the North Coast, have spent at least 20,000 hours doing law enforcement, seen dozens of watersheds drying up. He praises legislative leadership for allowing the department to focus on where the greatest impacts are hitting the most vulnerable places.
“What’s the future?” he says. “I’m torn. On the one hand I’m obligated to be open and transparent and honest, and I see a potential commercial fishery disaster” in the next few years. “By the same token,” he says, “these species are some of most resilient on the planet.”
California Fish & Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham expounds on the variety of California’s flora and fauna: over 6,000 species. “We lead the nation in biodiversity,” he says. “Unfortunately, we also lead the nation in loss of biodiversity.” The main takeaway, he continues, “I don’t think it’s a dramatization to say I feel an existential crisis. Literally. This experience has me searching for the meaning of life.” Department staff have been searching their souls, he says. This crisis has “forced a huge examination of mortality… But I don’t think this existential crisis means you have to lose faith… maybe this whole experience a little like the famous question posed in Hamlet… And our department has decided ‘to be.’”
That said, he continues to report on the dramatic loss of salmon in the Russian River (90 percent of returning to the tributaries) and – “At same time, just when you think it can’t get worse, it does” – the Sacramento (95 percent).
So what are is the department doing? In the last two years the department has dropped many other things they “should be focused on” to dedicate efforts to preserving diversity.
Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird talks about the drought: Last year the state and feds had zero allocation for the 25 million Californians who depend on water, snowpack measured on April 1 was five percent of normal, right now Sierra snowpack is zero percent of normal. We have to live with the impacts, which mixes with the issues being talked about in this hearing. If this drought last as long as Australia’s, then we’re not halfway through it yet – it could get very very bad, which demands the strong response that has been taken.
Assemblymember Jim Wood calls the hearing “a learning experience an opportunity to air some of the issues of concern.” He assures the audience that elected representatives realize the drought and illegal grows are not only issues affecting fisheries and aquaculture, that there are other significant challenges, but adds that regarding today, “Seeing is believing, and what you’re going to see and hear ought to be shocking to you… We have a lot of work to do.”
McGuire represents 40 percent of California’s coast and his district is home to most remaining healthy salmon populations, all of which are facing crisis. He says the majority of growers want regulation, but a minority disregards the environment for personal profit. “We must take action to protect the few remaining stocks of salmon left,” he says. River water made warm by illegal diversions is bad for fish. McGuire references past disastrous fish kills, “We cannot allow this to happen again.”
McGuire welcomes the room of about 50 attendees to the 42nd annual fisheries forum. For the past four decades, this forum has convened to examine the $7 billion commercial and $2 billion recreational fisheries. California is reeling from a historic drought, our once robust fisheries are struggling to survive, our iconic fish have gone from abundance to scarcity in a single lifetime.
Making things worse, he says, one of state’s largest crops has undergone explosive growth since Prop 215 passed in 1996. It has been left virtually unregulated for two decades and is contributing to rivers being sucked dry by illegal water diversions.
UPDATE, 10:04 a.m.: Waiting for things to start. PowerPoint presentations are being tech-checked. Introductions are being made. Hands are being shaken. Kit-Kats and cookies have been provided.
(NOTE: Blogging to begin at 10 a.m. right here; background and details below.)
Fishing boats at Mendocino County’s Point Arena. By Jennifer Savage.
“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.
- ‘A Great Victory’: California Cannabis Voice Humboldt Unveils Land Use Ordinance
- ‘Operation Emerald Tri-County’: Live-Blogging Mendo County Sheriff’s Office Teleconference on This Week’s Raids
- $26M of Weed Seized in Island Mountain Raids, Says Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office
- (UPDATE) Major Multi-Agency Marijuana Raid in Island Mountain Today
- PBS Newshour on Weed and Water Politics in Humboldt County
- Marijuana Watershed Protection Act Passes in State Assembly, Moves on to Senate
- Fish and Wildlife With Law Enforcement in Sproul Creek Again Today, Other At-Risk Watersheds Slated to Get Similar Visits
Ryan Burns / Tuesday, June 30 @ 6:32 p.m. / marijuana
This afternoon, with an impassioned presentation outside the Humboldt County Courthouse, leaders of the political action group California Cannabis Voice-Humboldt (CCVH) unveiled a proposed land use ordinance aimed at regulating marijuana cultivation throughout the county’s unincorporated areas.
With supporters gathered around a portable lectern and a team of organizers behind him, CCVH Executive Director Richard Marks put the event into a historical context.
“This is a very exciting day for us,” he said, “but not just for us — for small farmers and for all of Humboldt County. This is the day when Humboldt County takes a huge step into the future, not a future predetermined by outsiders, not a future given to us, not a future we just happened upon. No, a future we are making ourselves and by ourselves.”
The organization, which is a spinoff, of sorts, from the statewide group California Cannabis Voice, has been working for more than a year to develop this ordinance, which it plans to open up for 45 days of public input before presenting it to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors as a ballot initiative. Group leaders say they’re hoping the board will adopt the initiative directly, rather than sending it to the ballot for next June’s primary election.
Luke Bruner, the agency’s co-founder and a member of its board of directors, said the ordinance was created through collaboration with local cannabis farmers, environmental consultants, elected officials and regulators from the county and state. And when he stepped to the lectern this afternoon, Bruner unleashed the kind of fiery rhetoric typically reserved for Hollywood hunks on horseback immediately before an epic battle sequence.
“People of Humboldt,” he proclaimed, “today is a great victory for this community, and today represents the future life of our people and our land.”
The sound system set up ahead of time had failed, but as the gathered supporters noted, Bruner didn’t need the mike. With his chin held high, he projected over the roar of passing semis. “Around the world,” he said, “countries go into bankruptcy. Puerto Rico slides into insolvency. Cities and counties around California teeter on the brink. But the future of Humboldt is bright because the farmers and the people are organized.”
Sitting on a table nearby, and posted to the group’s snazzy new website, was a “short form” of the ordinance itself, showing all the proposed changes to county code. This ordinance aims to regulate every stage of the weed market within unincorporated Humboldt County, from planting, cultivating and harvesting to processing, packaging, transportation, distribution and sales.
The lynchpin of the draft ordinance lies in this assertion: “Cannabis may be cultivated in any zone in which general agricultural use is permitted, including, but not limited to, the Timber Production Zone (TPZ).” If this ordinance passes, then, Humboldt County residents could grow marijuana pretty much anywhere they’re now allowed to grow trees, flowers or vineyard, anywhere they can raise dairy cows, honey bees or chickens.
The ordinance would add cannabis cultivation to the county code’s definition of General Agriculture. And since general agriculture is principally permitted on lands zoned for timber production (TPZ), cannabis farms would also be allowed on such lands without having to obtain a separate permit — as long as the grow doesn’t have a canopy larger than 6,000 square feet.
Here are some of the details:
Anyone in the county with a parcel of five acres or more (and who’s not a resident of an incorporated city) could grow a crop for personal use, up to 600 square feet in canopy size, without having to get zoning approval.
For crops larger than 600 square feet but smaller than 6,000 square feet, property owners would be granted a ministerial (aka “over the counter”) permit, as long as they also pursue the appropriate permits with state regulatory agencies.
To start a grow of more than 6,000 square feet but less than 10,000 square feet in canopy size, growers would need to get a conditional use permit. Curiously, landowners with established grows this size would not have to get this permit when the ordinance took effect — again, so long as the property owners were pursuing the proper state permits.
There is no upper limit on grow size in the ordinance, though grows larger than 10,000 square feet of canopy (which is roughly the size of a Major League Baseball infield) would require a conditional use permit from the county.
All commercial growers would also need a business license from the county treasurer/tax collector. That license would have to be renewed annually, at a cost of $25, with revenue going to the county general fund. Any grower who violates the rules in the ordinance could have his/her license suspended.
Copies of each license application would be sent to the local fire department, the county ag commissioner, planning director and “any other governmental agency having a responsibility of enforcing land use, fire, health or safety laws involving the operation … .” And this is how CCVH proposes to deal with questions of environmental enforcement. By classifying cannabis as General Agriculture, the county could assign enforcement to agencies that already handle those duties with other crops — agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Cal Fire and the state Water Resources Control Board.
The program — official name: “Humboldt County Cannabis Cultivation Compliance Program” — would be administered by the County Agricultural Commissioner, and it would allow on-site inspections, laboratory testing of crop harvests and registration of participating cultivators and gardens.
Bruner today reiterated what group leaders have said before — that they hope the ordinance will serve as a template for the rest of rural California.
Patrick Murphy, chair of CCVH’s policy committee, also took a turn at the lectern, telling the crowd that Humboldt County is the heart and soul of the cannabis industry, and it should set a model of “middle-class farms” rather than the industrial factories of Colorado and Washington. He called for the creation of “salmon-safe” cannabis and said, “Our brand is the environment.”
But local environmental leaders remain skeptical about the ordinance and the process through which it has developed. One of the most vocal critics of that process, Northcoast Environmental Center Executive Director Dan Ehresman, obtained a copy of the draft ordinance before today’s official release and said it has the same failings as earlier drafts.
“It’s still giving a green light for large-scale growers who are doing significant environmental damage to watersheds and communities,” Ehresman said. He argued that while there are plenty of small-scale growers operating responsibly, this ordinance would instead give a free pass to those who’ve been violating the law and harming the environment for years. “CCVH is about protecting big growers. That’s what this land use ordinance is about.”
Ehresman also called into question the transparency of CCVH and its drafting process. The group has worked with former Humboldt County Supervisor Bonnie Neely and the high-powered attorney firm Nossaman LLP to craft the language of the ordinance, and while group leaders have touted the importance of public involvement, they have declined to reveal who sits on their board of directors, despite several requests from the Outpost.
In an interview earlier today, CCVH President Andre Carey said that the major phase of public participation begins now, with the release of the land use ordinance. “People can introduce [suggested] changes that will be taken back to the Nosseman Group attorneys,” Carey said. He added that the group has drawn crowds of more than 200 people to various watershed events across the county.
Addressing concerns over the size of grows allowed, Carey said water availability will serve as a limiting factor. “If you can’t show proof that you can get adequate water then you won’t get permit,” he said. And he argued that a 6,000-square-foot grow is small compared to other agricultural products.
A five-acre parcel is 217,800 square feet, so a 6,000-square-foot grow (say, two greenhouses of 100-by-30 feet) would account for just 2.75 percent of the ground coverage — “very minuscule,” Carey quipped.
Carey confirmed that CCVH is hoping to gather enough signatures to force county supervisors into action. As the Outpost previously reported, the group plans to take advantage of a recent California Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for project applicants to sidestep the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by advancing legislation through the state’s voter initiative process.
Here’s the deal: If CCVH can gather signatures from 15 percent of the county’s 76,000-or-so registered voters, the group could then ask the Board of Supervisors to hold an immediate special election. That would leave the board with just three options:
1) It could adopt the ordinance as written;
2) It could immediately order a special election (an expensive option);
3) It could ask staff to develop a report on the ordinance within 30 days, and then vote on the ordinance within 10 days of receiving the report.
Humboldt County Supervisors Estelle Fennell and Ryan Sundberg, who serve as the board’s medical marijuana subcommittee, have been conferring with the group throughout this process. In a phone interview this afternoon, Fennell said she has argued for collaboration.
“What I’ve made very clear is that I would want to reserve the right of the Board of Supervisors to amend [the ordinance] in any way we saw fit,” she said. “I think they’re aware of that.”
Fennell explained that she’d like to have the ordinance go through a variety of local officials before adoption — officials such as county staff department heads, county counsel, the sheriff and the agriculture commissioner.
The law, however, says the Board won’t necessarily be given that opportunity. Fennell noted that proponents of last year’s GMO-banning Measure P used this same process, sending the measure directly to voters (where it passed) and thus denying the Board any chance to modify it.
But Fennell said she’s hopeful that CCVH is genuinely open to input. She and Sundberg, she said, are simultaneously working on their own ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation, and she said, “I don’t see any problem folding the two together.”
Fennell noted that she hasn’t had a chance to read the latest draft in detail, but asked for her first impressions she said she’d like to see some limit on the allowed size of grow operations.
“There doesn’t seem to be a limit in there,” she said. “As the people at the press conference today said, they’re focusing on small farms. If that’s the case, we need to define what a small farm is.”
But on one point she was in complete agreement with the group’s enthusiastic leaders: The development of regulation for the medical marijuana industry is a major milestone. “This is a pivotal moment in the history of marijuana in Humboldt County and California,” she said. “It’s a big deal, really, and it’s important we do it right and that we gather input from all sides of the community.”
Again, a downloadable version of the ordinance is available through this link.
John Ross Ferrara / Tuesday, June 30 @ 3:48 p.m. / Traffic
A four-car collision that occurred around 2:38 p.m. has blocked all Southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 101 north of Redcrest.
Three passengers were injured, including a 68-year-old man who was taken away by ambulance with severe lower-back pain.
Several emergency units were dispatched. However, the first units to arrive on scene canceled all additional aid as there were sufficient resources on scene. California Highway Patrol is currently assisting to relieve traffic in the area.