North Coast Water Board

Chair Felicia Marcus and Board Members

c/o Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board

RE: Comment Letter — Order WQ 2017-00XX-DQW Draft General Waste Discharge Requirements For Discharges of Waste Associated with Cannabis Cultivation Activities & Draft Cannabis Cultivation Policy – Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation

For more than 40 years, the North Coast of California has been the epicenter of cannabis cultivation in California. There are at least 20,000 existing cultivation sites within the region. The environmental impacts to water quality and wildlife are well documented. Since 2015, the goal and intent of the discourse surrounding the development of a regulatory structure for cannabis cultivation has been to bring as many existing cannabis cultivators “out of the shadows and into the light” of a well-regulated industry—one that protects and restores its environment, and benefits society through taxation and increases public safety.

Since the release of Order R1-2015-0023 in August 2015, significant outreach was conducted by the North Coast Regional Board to build trust with the cultivation community and draw people into the regulatory fold. Approximately 3,500 cultivators chose to become “Early Adopters.” They enrolled under the Order, and have begun developing and implementing Water Resource Protection Plans (WRPP), which are site-specific best management practices designed to bring a property into compliance with standard conditions to protect water quality. Cultivators thought they were signing up for one thing and now the State Water Board Draft Order presents a very different structure that doesn’t fit with the Early Adopter’s plans and investments for their businesses. This will cause significant hardship for these businesses—the very same cultivators who are leading the way into the regulated future.

We do not believe it is the intent of the State Water Board Staff to have this disproportionate effect on these early adopters, however we are gravely concerned about the impact of this unintended consequence and we write today to request a remedy to this problem. We have identified two potential solutions, presented below in ranked order of our preference:

  1. The State Water Board should allow for (provide an exemption or waiver) those cultivators, the Early Adopters, who have enrolled with the North Coast Regional Water Board Order R1-2015-0023 (filled out a Notice of Intent prior to July 1, 2017) to continue with the existing regulatory process, and build on that process to develop equivalent measures approved by the Regional Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife that meet the objectives and intent of the law.
  2. If the Draft Order is adopted as is, cultivators who have enrolled under Order R1-2015-0023 need to be given additional time to adapt their WRPPs, compliance schedules and implementation timelines to reflect the reality of what is and is not possible on the ground, and be afforded time to integrate landscape level compliance (road maintenance and remediating industrial logging legacy impacts) into their multi-year business plans.

Respectfully,

Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director, California Growers Associaiton

Terra Carver, Executive Director, Humboldt County Growers Alliance

Casey O'Neill, Chair, Mendocino County Growers Alliance

 

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