COARSEGOLD – A 19-year-old Winton man is facing stiff fines for not only growing marijuana illegally, but also stealing more than a million gallons of water to feed his plants.
Late last week, Sheriff’s deputies discovered 100 mature plants, ready for harvest, growing on a hillside on a lot located on Ranger Circle Drive in Yosemite Lakes Park.
Following the recent amendment to the marijuana ordinance, the grower now faces $25,000 in fines just for the plants alone. Deputies eradicated the entire crop on site.
Halfway up the hill, deputies found a hole two feet wide and two feet deep, formed by water leaking from a coupling. The hose had a Y connector and two battery powered control valves, which led to an irrigation line feeding smaller drip lines used to water each individual plant, says the Sheriff’s Office.
A hose illegally hooked up to YLP’s water system, stretched approximately 1,000 feet up the steep embankment to the marijuana garden, which measured 40,000 square feet.
Deputies were able to reach the property owner by phone, who admitted the marijuana plants were his. When asked how often he visited his property, he told deputies every couple of weeks.
He reportedly claimed no knowledge of Madera County’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance, yet said he had a medical marijuana recommendation. When confronted about the water theft, the Sheriff’s Office says he told them he had every right to take it.
It’s believed nearly 1.5 million gallons of unmetered water was siphoned from the subdivision’s water tank, totaling more than $18,000.
“With wells running dry, it’s appalling to learn this much water was stolen during these drought ridden times,” said Sheriff John Anderson.
The investigation is ongoing.