Cannabis Operators Taking City Water, Continued
I have been following the saga of water being taken from a Santa Rosa hydrant on Scotland Court, Santa Rosa, and transported to 2260 Los Alamos Road, the location of a cannabis cultivation operation.
To summarize, numerous eye witnesses on Scotland Court have since June seen a white pick-up truck with a water tank on a trailer and an additional tank in the bed draw water using a “construction meter” from a hydrant at the corner of Scotland Drive and Scotland Court.
Water was taken daily, often multiple times a day. A neighbor who lives nearby, saw this activity and followed the pickup truck on Los Alamos Road. He watched it open the gate and turn onto Weeks Ranch Road, which is the entrance to the cannabis operation at 2260 Los Alamos Road.
This should concern county officials because § 26-88-254(g)(10) of the Cannabis Land Use Ordinance provides:
An on-site water supply source adequate to meet all on-site uses on a sustainable basis shall be provided. Water use includes, but may not be limited to, irrigation water, and a permanent potable water supply for all employees. Trucked water shall not be allowed, except as provided below and for emergencies requiring immediate action as determined by the Director.
The City of Santa Rosa forbids the use of water from hydrants to be used for a cannabis operation, including but not limited to §14.20.020 (unauthorized taking of City water) and §14.20.040 (operation of City valve or hydrant without permission of City).
When the eye witnesses contacted Santa Rosa City Water regarding this issue on or about September 20, city officials alerted the individual who has the water meter. The white pick-up truck ceased drawing water and hauling it to 2260 Los Alamos Road after September 22.
Eye witnesses have contacted PRMD and the Ag Department, and that the Ag department was deemed to be the responsible office to investigate. Daniella at the Ag Department stated that unless they catch the grower red-handed they have little interest in pursuing this. Given their estimated response time of at least an hour after a report, that is impossible. The public suggested a method to determine if city water was stored in any of the 7 water tanks, the pool or the pond, by analyzing a water samples (cost is $25/sample) but the Ag Department was not interested. The Ag Department even invented excuses for the water deliveries, suggesting that it was for firefighting. Given the immense amount of unauthorized water that seems to have been delivered (see below), this statement is not only ridiculous, it reveals an attitude of “hear no, speak no, see no evil” that is inappropriate for any regulatory agency. The primary duty of any county agency is to protect the public.
A Public Records Act request is pending to learn the identity of the contractor with the meter license and the amount of water taken during this growing season. A rough estimate is that this activity occurred for about 100 days and at a rate of about 1,000gallons per day, for an estimated total of 100,000 gallons. All Sonoma County residents have been urged to cut back their use of water by 20% because we are in a persistent drought. To put 100,000 gallons in perspective, Santa Rosa residents use about 50gallons per person per day.
100,000 gallons is the daily use of 2,000 residents. It represents the 20% daily savings (20% of 50 = 10 gallons) of 10,000 residents. Thousands of residents have abandoned their lawns or vegetable gardens or are taking fewer showers. I doubt that they think their sacrifices were undertaken to allow a cannabis operation to violate the law and use city water to support an inappropriate cultivation site that lacks an on-site water supply source adequate to meet its needs on a sustainable basis.
Given what seems to be an inability or a lack of interest in officials from PRMD or the Ag Department to get to the bottom of this, I request that PRMD refer this matter for investigation and possible enforcement action to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department and/or the Sonoma County District Attorney. They can interview witnesses under oath, including Patrick Bransford (owner of the cannabis cultivation), employees of the cannabis operation, the individual(s) who drove the white pick-up truck, and the Weeks family who saw the water trucks pass by on their private road almost daily. They can subpoena business records and otherwise have the tools and hopefully the will to protect the scarce water resources of Sonoma County during one of the worst droughts in our lifetimes.
I am copying Supervisor Gorin because this activity seems to have taken place entirely in her district and she may have an interest in ensuring that the laws that protect our environment and Sonoma County residents are enforced and not ignored. As a former mayor of Santa Rosa, Supervisor Gorin will appreciate the problems of allowing cannabis operations to misappropriate large amounts of city water.
-SOSN Member #1
I have noticed a pickup truck frequently filling up two tanks from a hydrant on our corner and hauling it up Los Alamos Rd. This was often done multiple times a day. When questioned by a neighbor, the driver said it was for a swimming pool, but we had our doubts. I followed the truck with full tanks up Los Alamos Rd. last week, and he turned into Weeks Ranch, at the top. It has multiple addresses associated with it.
I contacted SR City Water, and was told “construction meters” can be leased from the City to be used on construction projects, which was the stated purpose in this case. and was also told by Peter Martin at Water Resources that he would contact the person the meter is being leased to and make sure the water was being used for the stated purposes. that was on Monday, Sept. 20.
I also contacted the Sonoma County Cannabis program and was provided with a link to look up all permits, including Cannabis growing, on any property in SoCo. I did this on all 7 addresses associated with Weeks Ranch. One of them, 2260 Los Alamos Rd., has a cannabis permit, a permit for a hoop house, and a permit related to a greenhouse. The grower is Castle Rock Ridge, Inc. This was confirmed in a conversation I had with SoCo Cannabis Program.
I spoke with Peter Martin at SR City Water Resources again yesterday and told him what I had found out through the link provided by SoCo Cannabis Program and my conversation with them. He said he would follow up on it. SoCo Cannabis also told me that the permit for 2260 Los Alamos Rd. (#UPC 18-0037) is under “review” and that the permit was granted by the BOS, which she told me was an unusual arrangement.
A friend of mine rides his bike up Los Alamos Rd. 3 times weeks and has gotten to know a member of the Weeks family, who has told him the truck with the tanks goes to the Castle Rock Ridge, Inc. grow site so other people are aware of where that water is being hauled to.
A few days after I made the first call to SR City Water Resources, I began noticing that the water-hauling truck didn’t seem to be coming as frequently and I haven’t noticed it the last few days.
My concern is that there is this giant loophole in the City Water supply with these leased metering devices and they don’t seem to have any enforcement protocols in place. The growers could just lease another meter and use a different meter, hoping there are no vigilant citizens in the area.
-SOSN Member #2