EUREKA, Calif. (AP) — The Yurok tribe launched a large-scale raid Monday targeting illegal marijuana grows along the Klamath River that have threatened the reservation’s water supply and damaged its ecosystem.
The Humboldt County sheriff’s drug enforcement unit coordinated the raid, joined by more than a dozen agencies, including the California National Guard, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Yurok police, Lt. Steve Knight said.
Growing pot on the far Northern California reservation is illegal because the Yurok tribe does not honor the state’s medical marijuana law.
Tribal leaders told the Los Angeles Times (bit.ly/1lmT34g) that the number of grows on the reservation has tripled by this summer, causing creeks to run dry and water tanks to go nearly empty. They said sediment and chemical runoff from the grow sites have harmed salmon in the river, and the encroaching grows were threatening their way of life.
“They’re stealing millions and millions of gallons of water, and it’s impacting our ecosystem,” Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke said. “We can no longer make it into our dance places, our women and children can’t leave the road to gather. We can’t hunt. We can’t live the life we’ve lived for thousands of years.”
The tribe has sought help combating pot grows in the past, but the biggest drought to hit California in a generation propelled state officials to press for the California National Guard’s assistance, said Captain Pat Bagley, operations officer in charge of the raid.
The Guardsmen will help with marijuana eradication, clean the environmental damage done in the grow sites and help restore the land, agency spokesman Brandon Honig said.
Officials said tens of thousands of plants are likely to be eradicated over the next week and a half.