A multi-agency operation located numerous environmental violations in a series of marijuana raids across 15 Calaveras County locations earlier this week, most of which entailed damage to watersheds and waterways, authorities say.

Use of pesticides, stream diversion, and the removal of trees or grading without permits were the most common environmental crimes observed during the busts, reported Sheriff Rick DiBasilio in a Wednesday phone interview.

Starting Monday of this week, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with several other cooperating agencies, began serving a series of criminal search warrants to “investigate for prosecution of persons or organizations responsible for committing criminal acts and environmental damage in Calaveras County,” stated a press release issued by the Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

The search warrants were part of a month-long operation called Operation Green Wave, which has been dedicated to sniffing out illegal cannabis cultivation and directly associated environmental crimes, according to the press release.

In addition to the 26,597 marijuana plants eradicated and one ton of marijuana seized, officials arrested seven suspects, seized 11 firearms and $3,580 across various sites in Mokelumne Hill, Mountain Ranch, and West Point, among other locations.

“It’s law enforcement trying to get a handle on it and let illegal growers know that they’re not welcome in our county,” said DiBasilio. “We’re trying to do our job to keep citizens safe.”

The Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Water Resources Control Board, the California National Guard, Yuba and Sutter County Sheriff’s Offices, and California Highway Patrol in identifying and eliminating illegal grows across the county.

“The other agencies work really well with us,” said DiBasilio. “They help us with manpower and supplying equipment.”

Though 15 sites were initially identified, only 11 of those were busted since some had moved by the time of the operation. DiBasilio offers the explanation that either illegal growers’ projects came to fruition, or they decided it was too much of a risk to continue growing.

Growers may have been intimidated by last year’s Operation Terminus, which was the largest marijuana bust in county history, with 27,000 plants and 25 tons of processed cannabis seized, and 35 suspects apprehended by authorities.

DiBasilio emphasizes that there will likely be another operation of similar scale next year to pursue illegal grows regardless of whether laws concerning commercial cultivation change within the county.

“(Growers) need to understand that we’re going to continue to eradicate all illegal farms that are growing because that’s the law right now,” said DiBasilio.

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