Search uncovers 1K-plant pot grow, water diversion off San Juan Ridge
Narcotics detectives, fire and Fish and Wildlife officials served a search warrant on a property on the San Juan Ridge Thursday morning, uncovering a marijuana grow with more than 1,000 plants being watered by an illegally diverted trout stream.
At approximately 7:30 a.m., members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Task Force, along with Cal Fire and Fish and Wildlife executed a criminal marijuana warrant at the end of Farrell Ravine Road. Once on scene, officers contacted and detained two men residing on the property identified as Jose Humberto Rosales, 49, and Pedro Villa, 51, both out of the Modesto area.
During the search of the property, detectives located 1,002 marijuana plants under cultivation, several tents, an outdoor kitchen facility, a manmade plastic lined pond, and a water tank, said Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Smethers.
Rosales and Villa claimed to have been brought to the location from Modesto after meeting another Hispanic man at Home Depot for work, Smethers said. Both men were taken into custody and booked into county jail on suspicion of illegal cultivation of marijuana and were being held in lieu of $10,000 bail. The plants were eradicated, Smethers said.
A third person was located on an adjacent property and was identified as Mark Firestone, 37; he was taken into custody on an unrelated outstanding felony warrant.
According to Smethers, it was not known if the property owner, who is from Concord, was aware of the marijuana grow.
“There are trailers on the property, there is activity, they are running water lines similar to a DTO (drug trafficking organization) grow, but this is on private property,” he said.
During the investigation, it was determined that the subjects responsible for the marijuana under cultivation had built dams to divert water from Spring Creek, which is a rainbow trout habitat, Smethers said.
Fish and Wildlife Warden Jerry Karnow said he had been investigating a report of several illegal dams on the creek, off Grizzly Hill Road, and had found one of the pumps that was being used to divert water.
“I hiked in and found a dam with a pump leading to a hose,” Karnow said. “I could hear people … I knew that a warrant was going to be served (on a marijuana grow) in connection with a fire that had been reported in the area. I backed out because I suspected (there was a connection).”
And, in fact, the pump he discovered was one of the grow site pumps located during the criminal search warrant, he said.
Karnow said they found three pumps altogether pumping water upstream to multiple grow sites containing the 1,000 plants. Water was being stored in an approximately 1,700-gallon water tank, as well as in a 40-foot long reservoir he estimated could hold about 5,000 gallons.
“One hundred percent of the water being used on the plants was coming from the trout stream,” he said, adding that trout were trapped by the dams that had been constructed. “There was no other water source.”
Karnow noted that a fire reported in the area the week before is suspected to have been caused by the gas-powered pumps, which were located in heavy brush.
Water diversion has become a “pretty chronic” problem, Karnow said, citing recent cases he has investigated involving diversions from Wolf, Hatchett and Spring creeks, including a 300-plant grow nearby off Grizzly Hill Road with illegal grading and disruption to a nearby stream bed.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire career,” he said.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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