Valley News -

By Diane Sieker
Writer 

Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee meeting hears issues on water permits, code enforcement

 

Last updated 4/2/2018 at 9:41am

Courtesy

The Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Council's Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee members listen carefully to a presentation by Brian Baharie, president of the Anza Ground Water Association, at the CERC meeting Friday, March 9.

The Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Council hosted another Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee meeting at Anza Electric Cooperative's conference room Friday, March 9.

The CERC strives to help the AVMAC advise county Supervisor Chuck Washington's office of the cannabis regulations that will best suit the Anza and Aguanga areas.

Members of CERC, including Chair Edison Gomez-Krauss, Vice Chair Bob Giffin, Kevin Short, Phillip Canaday, Richard Ku, Kendall Steinmetz and George Hanian, were present. Committee members Kiran Samuels and Daryl Hossler were not in attendance. Several members of the public attended the meeting.

Gomez-Krauss called the meeting to order and summarized the highlights of the prior meeting, held Saturday, Feb. 22.

In the absence of committee secretary Samuels, Kevin Short volunteered to act as secretary for the meeting. None were opposed.

Canaday began his presentation by sharing a brief history of the water litigation which began in 1951 and handed out information packets containing some documentation and newspaper articles about the water rights lawsuit and water resource studies to date. To emphasize some of the difficulties in resolving the water issue, Canaday's information packet included a U.S. Geological Society evaluation that said that the Anza-Terwilliger aquifer system was poorly understood. 

One of the reports from the USGS Water-Resources Investigations said that water table altitudes in 28 alluvium wells monitored between 1973 and 1986 ranged from a decline of 21 feet to a rise in 59 feet. Twenty-three of these wells were in Anza and Terwilliger and ranged from a decline of 21 feet to a rise of 39 feet. Of these 23 wells, the water table increased an average of 1 foot during the 13-year period 1973 through 1986.

The report also indicated 10 of 11 wells in consolidated rocks showed higher water table altitudes in the summer of 1986 than in the summer of 1973. Water levels in these wells increased an average of 10 feet.

In summary, Canaday said he believed that there may be issues in obtaining water permits for any commercial use at this time.

Guest speaker Brian Baharie, president of the Anza Ground Water Association, informed the committee of the purpose of the volunteer association and said that the monthly meetings were open to the public and all were welcome to attend.

Baharie said the USGS well surveys of 2015, where 59 Anza valley wells were measured and monitored. He presented Power Point graphs to illustrate some of the discoveries stemming from that study. In all but two wells, the water levels dropped and did not recover entirely. 

He said that there was a downward trend in water levels from 1950 to 2014.

Precipitation, Baharie said, is the only source of recharging groundwater supplies in the area. He said that it is estimated that 45,000 acre-feet is the annual recharge rate for the Anza Valley.

Baharie gave a hypothetical set of numbers to the room full of committee members and residents. He said that perhaps if there were 2,000 cannabis farmers in the valley, each growing 100 plants that require 5 gallons of water a day, this number would equate to 200,000 plants using 5 gallons a day. This calculation in turn equals 1 million gallons water a day for this number of plants to thrive. 

He asked what the average growing season consisted of timewise, and committee members offered a 150-day cycle. Baharie said in conclusion that at that rate of water consumption for that length of time would equate to 150,000,000 gallons of water consumed per growing cycle in this scenario. 

Converted into acre-feet, these figures do not have a lot of impact on the water supplies, according to Baharie. 

It was repeated that it was just a hypothetical situation and not an actual proven event. There was much discussion regarding the accuracy of the figures, considering there is no accurate count of farmers and no reliable study of irrigation methods available at the time of the meeting.

Baharie's demonstration led into the next reports – the development of the cannabis farmer survey created by Richard Ku, George Hanian and Kendall Steinmetz. Ku handed out copies of the survey, and it was agreed that it was a good starting point, but some minor changes needed to be made. The purpose of the survey is to provide a voice for the cannabis growers in the community and to obtain information such as plant canopy sizes, tax and permit preferences, growing methods and other information anonymously. 

Discussion about permit fee structuring commenced, with ideas about price per square foot, number of plants and also a percentage of earned income, though the group admitted that would be difficult to determine.

Changes to the survey were discussed thoroughly and notes taken. The revised survey will be presented to all committee members before the next CERC meeting. The survey will also be offered in Spanish and should be translated before the next meeting.

Gomez-Krauss made a motion to accept the changes, and it was seconded. 

Gomez-Krauss went on to present his findings on Riverside County's ability to enforce the laws and ordinances already in place. 

"I've looked into the fact that Riverside County is essentially broke," he said. "The sheriffs, just like Riverside County, have told us that they are dangerously understaffed, the forecast for the next five years is basically the same, there is no way out of the hole."

In regards to cannabis cultivation taxes and fees providing for enforcement, these facts have a definite impact on the money shortage that the county now experiences.

Proposition 64 allows for funds to be sent to areas in the state to help with enforcement, but the areas covered will be ones in which cannabis cultivation is prohibited.

"Since the regulation in California has been somewhat tight with cannabis, only 1 percent of cannabis growers have actually registered for state licenses," he said.

This results in a reduction of the funds available for enforcement through Proposition 64 and translates into reduced monies for Riverside County's enforcement operations.

The CERC's plan to collects fees for local permitting, send them to the county and have some of the funds returned in the form of enforcement or regulation may be slim.

"The thing is, we're trying, and the best way we can do this is with  these numbers we get from the survey, it may give us some ideas on how much money we could actually make for the supervisors, and that's the only way we can get anything sensible done is this giving them something, giving something back," Gomez-Krauss said.

New business involved discussions on fact-checking materials and information submitted to the committee and requiring that these submissions be made by the public before discussion so that items presented, such as photos, evidence, data or claims, can be  made at the end of the meeting and assigned to a committee member for discussion at the next meeting. Factual data are important, as the findings of the committee will be presented to the AVMAC, the committee said.

Short introduced information about the county supervisors' new ban on industrial hemp cultivation within unincorporated Riverside County. Hemp is the same plant species as marijuana, but it lacks the same high THC levels and has been traditionally bred to produce fiber, seeds and animal feed.

Giffin presented his findings on certain laws in different cities and counties in California in regards to permitting and licensing of cannabis cultivators. He handed out packets of information to all the committee members. These different solutions as to the handling of the developing cannabis industry yielded much information toward what the CERC is trying to accomplish.

Giffin said that in his talks with a municipal attorney, he discovered that the development of a special cannabis designation for Anza will most likely not be possible. 

Canaday asked if a nonprofit farmer's organization might be the answer, to which Short said that it was unlikely that a community group would be able to fund any law enforcement.

"Win, win, win," Gomez-Krauss said. "The county has to win; community has to win; farmers have to win."

He summarized the mission of the CERC and the contents of the final report, which he hopes to submit to the AVMAC in a few weeks. The findings will include studies, conclusions and recommendations regarding safety, effects on the electrical grid and water supplies, ecological impacts, permitting structures and other considerations.

Public comments opened with Tim Lauridsen of Anza informing the committee of his opinion on water usage and cannabis yield. He said that he was concerned about the effects on water and the energy grid.

"This isn't going to work," he said. "It's shortsighted."

Lauridsen referred to the plummeting prices of cannabis and that the committee should be an agricultural group, to address all cultivation and not just of cannabis.

Jeff Crowley of Terwilliger said he had concerns about the tier method of permitting and asked the committee to elaborate. Stienmetz answered that the survey will address many of the questions about how and if a tier system dependent on the number of plants might be implemented.

Terwilliger resident Gary Worobec talked about looking at the other communities' permitting regulations, quoting Desert Hot Spring's system that uses a per square foot system. San Jacinto also uses a buy-in fee, he said. He was also worried about crime in the schools as a result in the growth of the cannabis industry in Anza.

Andew Carey of Anza discussed the importance of affordable fees. If they are too high, the growers will simply ignore complying with the regulations.

Attorney Grant Funk from San Diego introduced himself and offered his services.

"We do have clients that own property up here and have been growing for the past five years, obviously we are trying to help any way we can," he said.

Terwilliger local Tom Bell said he was disappointed in the AEC's policy on solar power. As a grower, he felt thwarted by limitations to the installation of a solar array on his property to power his energy needs. Short invited him to attend and AEC board meeting for more information. Bell said he felt that the AEC was blaming the growers for any problems with the grid.

The next meeting of the CERC will be 5 p.m. Thursday, March 22, at the AEC offices. The public is welcome to attend the meeting, which last about an hour.

For more information regarding the AVMAC Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee, email [email protected]

To contact Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington's office, call (951) 955-1030 or visit http://supervisorchuckwashington.com.

For more information about the AVMAC, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AnzaValleyMAC.

For updates on cannabis ordinances and laws in Riverside county, residents can visit http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis.aspx.

For information on what is currently allowed in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County, including a public input page to leave comments on this issue, visit http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis/PublicInput.aspx.

To learn more about state cultivation regulations and fees, visit http://calcannabis.cdfa.ca.gov.

For information on all areas of cannabis regulation and tax structure in California, visit https://cannabis.ca.gov.

 

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