According to the Associated Press, the affected area is the Emerald Triangle, where some of the most potent marijuana in the world is grown. However, the grows are illegal. In addition to cutting off the creeks, the northern California marijuana growers are clear-cutting forests to create pot plantations, building roads that send sediment into salmon streams and spread fertilizer and pesticides that poison the water.
Coho salmon have been on the list of threatened species since 1997 due to losing their habitat as a result of logging, agriculture, urban development, overfishing, and dams, the AP reports. Federal officials took an interest following a state Department of Fish and Wildlife study estimated northern California marijuana growers suck millions of gallons of water from salmon streams.
Unlike logging and vineyards, marijuana growing in the Emerald Triangle remains unregulated. To combat the problem, the state imposed stiffer fines for illegal water withdrawals used for pot plantations. However, pot industry advocates told the AP that northern California growers would welcome regulations. Emerald Growers Association Executive director Hezekiah Allen said a regulated industry would allow legitimate growers to compete more evenly with illegal growers, who have a financial incentive to cut corners.
“We need regulation that’s going to make sense to the farmers on the ground,” he said. “That is also going to achieve the public safety and environmental goals that we all share.”