State and local law enforcement and allied agency personnel have teamed up to combat a huge mess that illegal marijuana cultivators left behind in Santa Clara County.

On March 14, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens partnered with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Eradication Team (MET), the California Air National Guard’s Pavehawk helicopterteam, San Francisco Water Company, Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department, and Mid Peninsula Open Space District to clean up the environmental damage and mitigate wildlife habitat destruction at several sensitive watersheds throughout Santa Clara County. MET and DFG wardens raided the site during the summer of 2011, and with arrests made at several of these sites and all of the marijuana plants destroyed, the team has now finished the full cycle of arrest, eradication and environmental reclamation.

Onsite personnel restored former cultivation sites within the Nielson Creek and Renz Gulch watershed in South Santa Clara County. Also targeted were former cultivation sites on Black Mountain above the Arroyo Hondo River, which is a tributary into the Calaveras Reservoir and a public water drinking source, and Pheasant Creek above the city of Los Gatos.

Poaching, pollution and habitat destruction at the clandestine marijuana cultivation sites have severely impacted some of the most sensitive anadromous fish (steelhead trout) and public drinking waterways in the Bay Area. These effects trickle down to all other types of wildlife including mammals, birds and other aquatic species and contaminate human drinking water supplies.

Overall, the team made 30 arrests for illegal marijuana cultivation during the 2011 marijuana grow season. Of the 30, 27 suspects have been or will be charged with environmental crimes, making Santa Clara one of the most aggressive counties in the effort to prosecute illegal marijuana cultivators for their environmental crimes. Completing this clean up operation will not only rectify the environmental damage caused by cultivators but will remove the infrastructure to deter such operations from recurring at those sites.

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