Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California National Guard – Counterdrug Task Force, Tule River Tribal member organizations and a multitude of other agencies successfully conducted a five-day operation to eradicate marijuana from tribal lands last week. In addition to creating a public safety threat, the growers were poaching wildlife, polluting the land and water and destroying habitat.
Growers were also stealing water directly from tributaries to the Tule River. The Tule River Tribe relies upon this water for 80% of their water source. Growers typically use between 8-10 gallons of water per plant per day. The illegal water diversions supported 13,698 marijuana plants during severe drought conditions. On average, these marijuana plants consumed over 100,000 gallons of water per day.
Several water sources were found dammed, with every drop of water diverted for marijuana. Several water storage reservoirs constructed by the growers were capable of storing up to 5,000 gallons.
“We will continue our efforts in protecting our sacred lands and restoring the water for future generations to come,” said William J. Garfield, Tule River Tribal spokesperson.
Personnel from all agencies worked together to eradicate the marijuana and restore the site to as pristine a condition as possible. They removed the entire infrastructure of the grow site, including all dams, fertilizers, pesticides, human waste and approximately 12,000 pounds of garbage.
They also took out 10 miles of plastic irrigation pipe, seven manmade reservoirs, 12 five-gallon propane tanks and eight car batteries.
Other participating agencies included the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Justice – Campaign Against Marijuana Plantations, Team Hawk 129th Air Rescue Wing, High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, Tule River Tribal Council, Tule River Department of Public Safety, Tule River Natural Resources Department, Tule River Fire Department, Tule River Public Works Department and the Tule River Environmental Department.
Tule River Tribe is taking action to cut down on marijuana growth and the overuse of limited water, and take a proactive stand to be supportive of the local community’s safety, resources and environment.