US (CA): Cannabis farms are drying out water reserves in Humboldt County

In early September, the run of Supply Creek near Ken Norton's office on the Hoopa Valley Reservation has gone dry. The boulders and logs placed to create salmon and trout habitat lie bare under the sun. Norton, director of the Hoopa Valley Tribal Environmental Protection Agency and a member of the tribe, is worried about the stream's future. Under California's new cannabis regulatory system, 266 cannabis farmers are applying for permits to grow on the Hoopa Valley Tribe's traditional lands—some of which are now privately held and lie outside reservation boundaries.

More than 20 of the grows are in Supply Creek's steep headwaters. After years of habitat restoration work, Norton is concerned that cannabis farms may lower flows and kill off young fish.

"From the tribe's perspective, within our aboriginal territory, there are 266 applications, and the county takes each of these applications individually," Norton told EHN. "They do not look at the cumulative impact on the area."

The environmental impacts of industrial cannabis farming in the Emerald Triangle are unique. In Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational cannabis, the vast majority of legal cannabis farmers grow indoors in the Denver area, using the metropolitan water supply and wastewater system. In Washington state, growers have set up on traditional agricultural lands. In Oregon, land use laws have kept most growers out of steep timberlands where their farms might affect threatened salmon.


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