A 426-page final environmental impact report has been released for a proposed ordinance to ban commercial cannabis cultivation in Calaveras County, a step in a process that began more than a year ago.
The report concludes commercial cannabis cultivation has unavoidable adverse effects in Calaveras County that expose people to objectionable odors and creates a long-term increase in traffic.
Prepared by consultant Ascent Environmental Inc. of Sacramento, the final report includes responses to comments made by individuals and public agencies on a draft environmental impact report released in April.
A contract for draft and final environmental impact reports in connection with the proposed ordinance pays Ascent Environmental $221,947, Peter Mauer, planning director for Calaveras County, said Friday.
According to the final EIR, adverse effects of commercial cannabis cultivation that can be mitigated include impacts on air quality, aesthetic effects on scenic vistas, creation of new sources of glare, impacts on special-status species, modification and/or loss of streamside habitat, degradation or removal of sensitive natural communities, conflicts with local policies protecting biological resources, disturbance or loss of wildlife migratory corridors, disturbance of unique archaeological resources, and impacts on hydrology and water quality including groundwater supply and surface drainage impacts on flooding.
The EIR process for making a law addressing commercial cannabis cultivation in Calaveras County is required by the California Environmental Quality Act, which has been state law since 1970.
The final EIR is required to include perspective from the Calaveras County Air Pollution Control District, Cal Fire, Caltrans, state departments of Fish and Wildlife, Food and Agriculture, Parks and Recreation, Pesticide Regulation, the state Department of Water Resources and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.
More than 700 registered pot farms made marijuana growing the largest industry in the county last year, according to a study, with estimates of an annual economic impact of $339.2 million, 3,404 jobs and income to workers of $172.2 million.
At the same time, Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio estimates there are as many as 600 illegal farms operating in the shadows.
The objectives of the proposed ordinance to ban commercial cultivation, according to the final EIR, are to recognize requirements of state and federal law related to the use and distribution of cannabis, to regulate premises used for marijuana cultivation or commercial activities related to marijuana, or to prohibit those uses within constraints of state law, to maintain the health, safety, and well-being of county residents and the environment, to minimize risks of and complaints regarding fire, odor and pollution caused by unregulated cultivation of marijuana, and to protect surface and groundwater resources by reducing discharges of sediments, pesticides, fertilizers, petroleum hydrocarbons, trash and human waste.
Cannabis cultivation in Calaveras County is currently allowed under an urgency ordinance adopted last year that regulates commercial cannabis growers operating before May 10, 2016.
A special election to ban pot scheduled in May this year was thrown out by a judge, making the Board of Supervisors the last line of defense for pot opponents. Three supervisors who voted for the urgency ordinance lost their seats in November. The new board has directed county staff to craft a permanent ordinance banning pot.
A public hearing on the final EIR and to consider a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on the proposed ordinance is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Sept. 28 at San Andreas Town Hall, 24 Church Hill St.