Update at 12:14pm: Calaveras Sheriff Rick DiBasilio shares some newly updated figures relating to the county’s Operation Terminus illegal cannabis eradication project in partnership with several state enforcement agencies.
The latest figures indicate the seizure of 28,650 marijuana plants, 12 opium pods, 31 tons of unprocessed marijuana, 1,898 pounds of processed marijuana, 13 firearms, one piece of body armor and just over $57,000 in cash with over $50,000 of that from one location seized Thursday afternoon.
The sheriff adds that in addition to 35 arrests made so far this week, over 150 criminal environmental violations were issued or opened for investigation. Of these, 97 are related to Fish & Wildlife, 29 to water quality, 24 to water rights and five are CAL Fire land conversion cases.
Video from Thursday’s media conference has been added. To view clips, click on the links at the bottom of this article.
Original Post at 6:02am: San Andreas, CA — When it comes to ridding the county of its illegal cannabis woes, the long arm of the law in Calaveras looks like it has undergone a major growth spurt.
While Clarke Broadcasting has been providing updates on the recent uptick in illegal marijuana grow eradications underway, as reported here, Thursday afternoon, the Calaveras Sheriff’s Office rolled out details of an impressive multi-agency cooperative whose goal is not only to permanently shut down these grows but also to hold growers and/or landowners accountable for the environmental damages they cause.
Dubbed Operation Terminus, the new alliance includes the California National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, CHP, California Fish and Wildlife and the State and Central Valley Regional water boards, who are providing their tools and environmental enforcement teeth. Additionally, through Calaveras County Attorney Barbara Yook, a California District Attorneys Association special unit prosecutor has been sworn to assist in prosecuting the resulting cases as crimes against the environment.
According to Calaveras Sheriff’s Captain Jim Macedo, who provided some quick stats at a media conference, as of Thursday afternoon Operation Terminus activities at 23 sites involved arresting 35 suspects and the eradication of over 27,000 marijuana plants — some 20 tons — which carry an estimated street value of $27 million to $108 million, depending on the valuation figure assigned (between $1,000 and $4,000/plant). Also confiscated were 11 firearms and/or assault weapons, some with serial numbers partially removed; $7,000 cash and body armor from two subjects. Costs of the operation are still being gathered.
Illegal Grows Being Cited For Environmental Crimes
The sites showed signs of numerous environmental crimes. Among these were damage to the watershed and waterways, such as through grading and water diversions; illegal pesticide and herbicide use and discharge of human waste into waterways; conditions that were not permitted, substandard or that could have caused structure or wildfires. Where growers who do not own the land have fled or fail to become accountable the burden falls onto the property owners.
In his overview of the operation, Macedo also revealed the reason behind choosing the word “terminus” which, in Latin means “the end of the line.” “We are working with the allied agencies towards ending the line of the large group of growers who have come from across the US and California, committing crimes and causing significant environmental damage to Calaveras County,” he explained. The environmental agencies, as the captain emphasized, are essential partners; due to the nature of the county’s Mokelumne River watershed and Stanislaus River drainage system, under which environmental damage that begins in the mountains and foothills, has significant impacts down to the end of the line in the Central Valley and Bay Area.
While counties across the Golden State are or will be dealing with marijuana production issues under recently enacted state laws still in the process of being adopted, Calaveras has been particularly burdened with a reputation as a remote rural location where the crop grows well and illegal growers might operate without much notice “under the radar.” In the wake of the devastating Butte Fire two years back, land sell offs created a speculative rush, spawning the local enactment what is now widely considered to be a flawed urgency ordinance regulating commercial medical cannabis, that further burnished the belief.
It will obviously take a concerted, full-bodied effort like Operation Terminus to deal with the widespread illegal cultivation and associated problems across Calaveras, whether or not the county heads towards a total commercial grow ban, as it seems to be under the current board of supervisors, or whether it opts towards crafting a new set of regulations. Either way, Sheriff DiBasilio says the county’s new approach should send a clear message to illegal growers. “Don’t come,” he intoned. “You are not welcome and we will come for you.”