Three Humboldt County, California cannabis cultivators are facing $209,687 in fines by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in connection with sediment discharged into tributaries of the Mad River that posed a risk to aquatic life and water quality. The fines against Szagora LLC, Toshko Toshkoff, and Rudy Chacon were announced last week. 

The agency accuses the cultivators of failing to obtain a permit to legally cultivate cannabis and says they did not respond to an enforcement order requiring them to maintain an access road on their property consistent with industry standards designed to protect water quality and beneficial uses, the agency said in a press release.

Claudia E. Villacorta, assistant executive officer for the board, said all three “put a waterway at risk” due to their actions. The complaint covers the period from July 1 2021 to May 9, 2022.  

“By failing to obtain a required permit, follow industry standards and adequately respond to an enforcement order, the unlicensed cultivators gained an unfair advantage over legal cultivators.” — Villacorta in a statement 

Sediment delivery to waterways negatively impacts the migration, spawning, reproduction, and early development of cold-water fish, the agency said adding that excess sediment delivery to streams can smother aquatic animals and habitats, alter or obstruct water flows resulting in flooding, and reduce water clarity, which makes it difficult for organisms to breathe, find food and refuge, and reproduce.

“The discharge of sediment in the Mad River watershed is especially problematic because it is listed as an impaired water body under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act due to elevated sedimentation/siltation and turbidity,” the board said.

A public hearing to consider the complaint and vote on whether to approve the fine is set for August 4 and 5.