The settlement resolves violations for destroying wetlands, operating without permits and for converting oak woodland for cultivation
A judge in Humboldt County Superior Court approved a settlement that would require a cultivator, Joshua Sweet who owns The Hills and Shadow Light Ranch, to pay up to $1.75 million for building and diverting water from onstream reservoirs without permits from the California Water Boards and state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The settlement was the result of years of investigations by state officials that date back to 2016 and resolves violations for destroying a wetland habitat and stream channels, converting oak woodlands for cannabis farming and failing to meet permit requirements.
If the operator restores the damaged property by 2026, which includes removing three reservoirs and repairing the stream channels and wetlands, then $1 million of the settlement will be suspended. For now, the operator must pay $500,000 to the Division of Water Rights, $175,000 to the North Coast Water Board, and $75,000 to the Department of Fish and Wildlife within five years, as well as obtain all the necessary permits, cease unauthorized water diversions and use of water, restrict future property development and comply with all applicable regulations.
“This case represents years of hard work by dedicated staff to remediate damage to streambed channels, wetland habitat and oak woodlands,” Nathaniel Arnold, the acting Fish and Wildlife chief of law enforcement, said in a press release. “The settlement also speaks volumes to the egregious nature of this case and should send a strong message to those working outside of state regulations to cultivate cannabis. Our natural resources deserve to be respected.”