Here's why Big Springs residents are worried about marijuana grows

Kelsey Shelton
Mount Shasta Herald

People who live in Big Springs continue to plead with the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors to stop local ranchers from selling their water to be trucked away for irrigating illegal marijuana grows.

On Dec. 1, supervisors voted to extend a State of Emergency resolution that made such activity a public nuisance, and therefore illegal.

A water truck makes its way between lines of protesters on A-12 Saturday morning, where neighbors picketed against the pumping of local water, most likely to be used to irrigate illegal marijuana grows in Siskiyou County.

Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue provided an update about what the Sheriff's Office has been doing on that front. "You see predominately overwhelmed resources, and catastrophic impacts on public health, safety and quality of life," said LaRue.

LaRue said over the span of 2020, the SCSO has served 120 warrants, had 130,000 plants seized, and seized more than 25,596 pounds of processed marijuana. He said there have also been 123 arrests and citations and the department seized 31 firearms.

LaRue noted that the department "is seeing an increase in cash flow that has been seized."

As of Dec. 9, Big Springs residents are still experiencing low and empty wells, which they associate with the nearby water pumping. They also noted the impacts that illegal grows may have to the environment.

LaRue reminded everyone that the issue is a county-wide issue, and doesn't include just the Sheriff's Office. "We're collaborating and strategizing with other county entities, code enforcement, the DA's office, and several county councils," he said.

"We want to step up, work together and hit it collectively," said LaRue. He noted that the SCSO has been in contact with the Franchise Tax Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, CalCannabis, and the U.S. Forest Service in attempts to get a federal presence in the county.

More:Dry wells, angry neighbors: Big Springs residents protest water trucking for illegal marijuana grows

During public comment, a Big Springs resident said she believes that ranchers are still selling their private water to water trucks in the area. She said the water goes to illegal grows, and this activity should be penalized under the emergency ordinance.

“I want to know where the accountability is – we want enforcement," she said.

She said the ordinance should have “enough penalties, enough bite” to ensure people will not continue to sell their water.

The woman also read a letter from a fellow resident which contested that a standard water study to see if local wells are impacted would take too long – action is needed now, Howard said.

A majority of speakers at the Dec. 9 meeting said they're concerned about the presence of illegal grows and the resulting organized crime in the Shasta Vista area. 

Protesters in Montague on Aug. 22, 2020.

Another Siskiyou County resident expressed concerns regarding the shooting that took place early November in the Shasta Vista area which involved an automatic assault rifle, and left two injured and one dead. 

“Until you live next to a growers, you have no idea what goes on,” she said.