UKIAH — The Mendocino Board of Supervisors discussed the possibility of modeling its cannabis code enforcement after Humboldt County on Tuesday, after receiving a plan which proposes the addition of multiple job positions to both the cannabis and sheriff’s department. The board also discussed the use of PG&E settlement funds and received the company’s plans for potential power shut-offs this summer.
Mendocino County Planning and Building Services, as well as other departments, proposed how Mendocino might shift its cannabis code enforcement practices to model Humboldt County, in order to address illegal grow sites.
According to Code Enforcement Supervisor John Burkes, code enforcement is currently complaint-driven, while Humboldt uses more proactive measures like satellite imagery and streamlined communication between different agencies.
Burkes proposed a hub where complaints would be stored and could host communication between Planning and Building Services, the Cannabis Department and the Sheriff’s Department.
Burkes also proposed an addition to the Cannabis Department with a Compliance and Enforcement fraction which would be made up of several employees and would aid in monitoring sites within the program.
He also proposed the addition of four deputies to the Sheriff’s department, as well as a contract with an environmental science provider to create reports which would aid in the prosecution of egregious environmental violations. The proposal also included hiring a second county council.
In response to the proposed code enforcement plan, Fifth District Supervisor Ted Williams asked what the realistic goals were for those sites that can not qualify for state licenses. He pointed out that voters didn’t legalize an already existing industry, they created a new one, and that the original plan was to funnel existing growers into licensing programs.
“I support this plan, but somehow it needs to be tied in with a realistic picture of where we plan to go with permitting and licensing,” Williams said. “Because if it’s just a dead-end and we’re going to go out there and shut down thousands of farms and they have no opportunity to come into compliance, I don’t know if that’s really the ingredients for success.”
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall said he believes the county has to put its foot down on sites that are out of compliance in order to address more dangerous activity in the county.
“We have a big foothold of some extremely dangerous people in this county and we need to get that foothold out of here as soon a possible,” he said. “There’s going to be some arguments about legacy growers and things like that. You can say these folks have been doing this for years, but the fact is that they’ve been breaking the law for years. We have to draw a line in the sand or we will continue to have this problem.”
Williams asked Cannabis Program Manager Kristin Nevedal that with the addition of a compliance and enforcement role to the cannabis department, it’s likely that the county will have to shut down thousands of growers who won’t make it through Phase Three of the cannabis permitting program.
“I think ultimately with the enforcement program we are talking about shutting down all unlisted forms of cannabis cultivation, but primarily the cannabis department is looking for additional staffing to help ensure that we can answer questions about compliance,” Nevedal said.
Planning and Building will return to the board with a cost analysis for the plan.
Over the course of several weeks, the board has received requests for PG&E settlement funds from various departments.
The board received three more requests Tuesday, two from different fire departments for equipment and training and one from Redwood Valley County Water District for maintenance and water theft preventative equipment.
Redwood Valley Water Board Director Tom Schoeneman said unlisted water trucks often steal water from fire hydrants in order to water illegal cannabis grows.
“It’s been going on for a while. Redwood Valley is the wild, wild west of cannabis grows right now. It’s no secret to me where this water is going,” Schoeneman said.
This and all other requests for funds are included in a matrix working document where the board will begin to prioritize different projects and figure where the settlement fund will be distributed.
PG&E representatives also updated the board on the company’s plans for this year’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) within the county.
In addition to monitoring weather, wildlife and potential fire dangers, PG&E is installing additional distribution sectionalizing devices and transmission switches in order to reduce the number of people impacted by power shut-offs, local government relations PG&E representative Alison Talbott said.
“Due to recent grid updates we do not expect a return to the large-scale PSPS events of 2019, of which Mendocino County is quite familiar,” Talbott said.
Power shut-offs will be determined by multiple factors, including weather and humidity levels. PG&E customers who live in areas at the highest risk for wildfires will experience more frequent PSPS events, according to Talbott.
Residents will be notified through call, text and email two days prior to a shut-off, again one day before, and then again just before. They will also be notified once power has been restored.
The Mendocino Board of Supervisors’ next regular meeting is at 9 a.m. on May 25, via virtual webhost. For more information, visit the board’s website at www.mendocinocounty.org/government/board-of-supervisors.