With the help of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Drug Enforcement Unit and several other state and federal agencies, the Yurok Tribe is reclaiming parts of the Yurok Reservation that had been severely impacted by marijuana grows.
A total of 12,898 marijuana plants, more than 300 pounds of processed marijuana and seven firearms were seized during the eradication efforts last week, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, which coordinated the operation at the request of the Yurok Tribe. No arrests were made, but several suspects have been identified and arrest warrants will be requested, according to Humboldt Sheriff's Office.
"I'm not saying that we got it all- there's still work to do in that area," said Lt. George Cavinta of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Drug Task Force.
Officers involved in what was dubbed "Operation Yurok" came from several agencies, including Bureau of Indian Affairs, California Department of Justice, California Fish and Wildlife Service, Marin County Sheriff's Office, Humboldt County District Attorney's Office, Yurok Police Department, Eureka Police Department and California National Guard.
From Monday through Thursday last week, 35 officers served 20 Humboldt County Superior Court search warrants and nine additional Yurok Tribal warrants in or near the Yurok Reservation, and the tribe's eradication efforts were ongoing this week.
As officers approached grows, they were met by recently felled trees laying over the roadway, suspected to be a tactic to slow down officers from approaching the grow.
"Unknown parties fell numerous trees on our way," said Cavinta, adding that he has seen the tactic for decades, working these type of cases since the 1980s. "They will go to any extent to stop us."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board are conducting their own investigations for the illegal environmental actions associated with the grows, Cavinta said.
"Large tracts of forest area were deforested, unlawfully logged or clear-cut for open-space marijuana growing," Cavinta said.
Almost all of the grows targeted for eradication had some kind of water tank filled by diverting water from a creek or spring for the purpose of irrigating the marijuana grows, Cavinta said.
The siphoning off of water caused 200 households that use water systems that rely on surface water to complain of poor water pressure and fear that their sole water supply might run dry, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times.
"Streams I've seen in prior years with more severe droughts where water ran, there's no water now," said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O'Rourke in an L.A. Times story.
All marijuana grows are illegal on the Yurok Reservation since the Yurok Tribe does not honor California's medical marijuana law.
The tribal council last fall approved a new controlled substance ordinance that allows for civil forfeiture in circumstances where cultivation has harmed the environment.
The Yurok Tribe has asked for assistance in marijuana grow eradication in the past, but a breakthrough was reached this April when tribal officials were discussing the drought with staffers from Gov. Jerry Brown's office.
Brown, tribal officials were told, had pressed for California National Guard assistance with marijuana eradication and specifically urged the Office of the Adjutant General to assist in the Yurok operation.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report. Reach Adam Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.