A Humboldt County Superior Court judge has approved a settlement that requires a cannabis cultivator to pay $1.75 million for building and diverting water from illegal onstream reservoirs without first obtaining permits required by the California Water Boards and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The settlement, which was reached after a lengthy investigation, resolves violations by Joshua Sweet and his companies, The Hills LLC and Shadow Light Ranch LLC that include the owner’s destruction of wetland habitat and stream channels, conversion of oak woodland to grow cannabis; and failure to work with the State Water Resources Control Board, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, and CDFW to satisfy permitting requirements.

If Sweet completes restoration of the damaged property by 2026, $1 million of the penalty will be suspended. This work includes the removal of three unauthorized reservoirs and the rehabilitation of stream channels and damaged wetlands.

“It is critical for all cannabis cultivators to be environmentally responsible and protect California’s water supply and water quality,” said Taro Murano, program manager for the State Water Board’s Division of Water Rights cannabis enforcement section. “Sweet chose to operate his business while ignoring regulations designed to protect the environment. He must now remediate the environmental damage he caused and pay a significant penalty. No one should get a business advantage by ignoring the law and harming the environment.”

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