Mendocino County Sheriff Talks Island Mountain Raids: Come September, We’ll Be Back


Humboldt County Sheriff’s officers at the scene of a marijuana grow on Island Mountain this Thursday. [Photo by Kym Kemp.]

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman held a press conference at 4 p.m. in Ukiah on what he called Operation Emerald Tri-County. (See Humboldt’s press release here.) According to Allman, in April of this year the Sheriffs from Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt were contacted by individuals who complained about what was occurring on Island Mountain. These individuals were pilots and locals who live in the Island Mt. area. According to Allman, they were “upset over the abusive grows that were taking place… .”

The three sheriffs investigated. They used aerial surveillance. The more they investigated the more they felt, Allman said, that “this was the most abusive area for the three counties.”

On Monday, Sheriff Allman said that Representative Jim Wood was taken to Island Mountain to see first hand the problems.

Allman stated that 86,578 marijuana plants were eradicated in the three counties. He added that officers “did not encounter extensive resistance” except in one case where a bulldozer destroyed the road and deputies were forced to fill the hole with shovels before continuing with their vehicles. “When we got there,” Allman said, “the garden had been eradicated. The plants were secreted in a nearby forest.” But, he said, the plants were found by officers.

“$80,777 were seized from … different locations,” Allman stated.

According to a Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson, the Watershed Enforcement Team (WET) found 97 violations– 55 pertaining to stream violations. The lieutenant called this “a wide spectrum of violations.” Some, he said, were minimal and some weren’t. In some places “people pushed loose soil directly into streams…causing diversions and damming streams.” The lieutenant noted that there were numerous holding tanks and ponds. He said, “The amount of gallons of water in tanks was unreal.” Then he noted that many of these were “directly above the Eel River.” The water of the Eel, he said, was hardly flowing. It was stagnant and warm. The tanks, he said, held water that would be running off the hill. Removing that flow “creates complete devastation to the environment.”

In particular, the lieutenant noted that “nearly every parcel had some type of [marijuana] operation occurring on them.”

Allman refuted claims that his officers had eradicated gardens belonging to small farmers by stating that while they had raided small gardens–“the 25 plant grows that we eradicated were connected to another 25 plant grow by waterline…This was an attempt to fool law enforcement.”

Trinity County Sheriff Bruce Haney said, “We served four search warrants.” He added that 14,000 plants eradicated and three firearms were seized. “There was one case that was filed. There could be more,” he said.

Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey said that his officers “served seven search warrants” but no one was arrested. He said that there were 40 separate large greenhouses. “The watershed,” Downey said, “was drawn down to levels never seen before.” Then he described a large water bladder approximately “100 feet by 100 feet.” An officer, he said, had stood on it and said that “he felt that if it burst, he’d probably drown. That is the kind of water being diverted from our streams and river.”

This photo was provided by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office

This photo was provided by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said he served nine search warrants. Several individuals were arrested. Mendocino seized six firearms during the course of their operation.

He said that as of yet, he didn’t know the cost of the operation in total. In total, he said, there were 30 to 40 personnel. “We haven’t seen all the overtime,” he explained, and there are other costs yet to be counted. He stated though that in two months he should be able to provide a close account.

Allman said that the National Guard provided one pickup and five personnel.

In response to a question about whether law enforcement could have worked with growers to come into compliance, Allman stated that one of the growers raided had been at meetings about the various laws. Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey stated, “I can guarantee you that only one of the grow sites we went to was even remotely in compliance.”

Downey and Allman both denied that there had been any water lines slashed and tanks emptied. Allman added that if anyone would like to file a complaint they could come into his office…

Allman made it clear that Island Mountain was going to see more law enforcement. “September,” he said, “we’re going to go back to Island Mountain.”


Garden being eradicated on Thursday in the Island Mountain raids. [Photo by Kym Kemp.]



  • That Tom Allman plays one mean tuba. Lotsa puffing, no inhaling.

    • Next E’berg where there are many large parcels being bought up by the Bul….ians. I personally know people who have been threatened into selling their land. One family to the east of 101 had visitors from that country at their door, guns drawn, telling them they couldn’t have a party in Oct as it was harvest season and they didn’t want lots of strangers in the hood.. The family sold up and moved. This kind of out of control bullying is the work of organized criminals who have no connection or care for our community, who divert the water, who poison the land and who threaten with guns. Enough already!!

      • I have heard about that before, in Panther Gap. Supposedly LE wasn’t too keen on visiting the area, as it was considered too dangerous.

      • I have also heard alot about the bulgarian mobs taking control of large parts of humboldt. I know a guy who worked one of their farms and said they were no way near medical 215, they were diverting all the product out of state. They threatened to hold another worker hostage when he didn’t pay back some $$ from product.

        The sheriffs office should be focusing on these criminal grow operations instead of raiding small farmers. I do not know the specifics of any of these island mountain busts but maybe some of them could have been criminal. But I would rather the cops use their time to bust foreign nationals instead of local citizens.

      • Yup, they are right next door this year. They act like children with bulldozers.

      • My wife is Ukrainian and I am American and our daughter is Ukrainian American and people seem to believe every Eastern European Slavic person living or moving into the emerald triangle are criminals which is ridiculous. I have Hispanic neighbors that are in my opinion connected to and are involved in purchasing, shipping, and lots of other stuff I don’t want to know about. Zero police attention is paid to them and I get followed routinely. There are good and bad people from all groups and there can be misunderstandings with different immigrant groups. The Bulgarians have good people and bad what I feel is the best way to deal with them is with mutual respect. Often though what happens is people are upset and afraid of other ethnic groups, is the fear rational or irrational most of the time I thinks it’s 90% envy and jealousy and irrational people then begin to inform to the police or thru innuendo slander people and thru rumor mongering try to bring police attn. Bulgarians are way better than the Hmong in trinity pines they are usually misunderstood and are justifiably scared of their informant neighbors. Your friends may be better off leaving the area and I am willing to bet the Bulgarians were willing to pay to facilitate that.

  • Trinity County Sheriff, what about the big, nasty mess in Hyampom? Take a look at that before returning to Island Mountain….that portion of Eel River is depleted more than So Hum….check it out…

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  • Michael Montgomery

    Is that “water bladder” serious. Jeez!

    • Wouldn’t want to be downhill when that broke, would you?

      • That would be a reason to consult an engineer perhaps.

      • People are saying well at least they were storing water, well yes, by emptying the springs, wells and river.

        • Lost Croat Outburst

          I am not defending abusive, aggressive, excessive,toxic or violent gardens. But water storage is the future of California gardening. That giant bladder could be nasty if it burst, but water stored during high winter flows for summer use is a conservation measure that is encouraged and sustainable. That’s the idea behind all the rigid storage tanks you see everywhere.

    • Nah – it’s really a little army man set up on a heating pad in some shrubs to fool us……no one would do THAT!

  • If I follow the logic of the sheriffs, storing water is bad because it has to come from somewhere. On the other hand, not storing water is bad because then you have to get water from somewhere.

    As to destroying water tanks and draining storage, they seemed to deny that occured. We’ll find out soon, I suspect.

    I am staggered by the plant counts which strongly suggest that actually millions of plants are being grown in the 3 counties. These raids took place in a relatively small area of these three large counties. A lot to think about here – including how do pounds of marijuana numbering in the hundreds of thousands if not millions get from these counties to the people who consume them?

    • My thought is concentrates are driving the market right now, and these types of industrial scenes are capitalizing on that. There was an interesting piece in the Oregonian a couple weeks ago that reported up to 70% of dispensary-sold concentrates were found to have high levels of toxins from herbicides.

    • The plant counts are especially large in dep grows which can be done a couple times a year (Some people even claim to be able to do 4 runs) So in effect the plant counts could be doubled. However, I find it incredibly difficult to believe there are 3 pound plants in those greenhouses like Tom suggested.

  • Hopefully that was mostly rain catchment. [Cops]…got nothing getter to do…oh wait yea they do…

    Curious how much water the golf courses they play on use daily? Or how about that wine you drink…or the beef you eat? Takes 100 gallons of water to make a serving of beef

  • Downey says there was around 26k plants in Humboldt, Trinity sheriff claims 14k in his county, then Mendo sheriff Allman says a total of 86k in all three counties. That leads one to believe there were 46k in Mendo, is there any statement by Allman confirming that number?

    I ask because in a previous story the HCSO officer stated “I think we got the lion’s share of the the work, unfortunately. Nothing to be proud of,” DTF Lieutenant George Cavinta told The Outpost.” It also seems as though HCSO served more warrants, which doesn’t necessarily correlate to more plants, but it is 7 warrants to Mendos 4, I think, so odds are not all of Mendos raids were almost twice as big as the Humboldt ones. But that is what the numbers, so far, indicate. I admit it is a lot of plants no matter what, but I don’t like the thought that they may be inflating their numbers for “shock and awe”.

    • Tom said that his crews also do open field searches (ie gardens that were not attached to residences didn’t necessarily have search warrants) He also said that Mendocino had the use of a helicopter which allowed them to gather more plants. He said that his crews had eradicated 45,553 plants

      • Thanks Kym, that makes much more sense. Glad to see they are keeping honest…kind of…maybe!

      • They cut what seemed like every garden they could find on the Mendo side of Island Mountain. Hopefully lack of warrants will stop them from being able to prosecute.

  • Question: if they were going to empty the water tanks/bladders, couldn’t they empty them back into the eel? Or would that not work?

    Also I’ve personally seen destruction and emptying of water tanks onto the ground while living in Mendo. Definitely lowers the property value and wastes water.

    • I’ve heard on another case near Sprowl Creek that emptying the water warmed from bladders and tanks into the River will raise the water temperature and not be good for the fish.

      • I have neighbors out here that I trust who said cops broke their pond so its leaking steadily now as well as drained tanks. Sheriff Allman is an idiot and an asshole if he thinks people being targeted for crimes are going to come in and complain of abuses by cops. Sounds like a solid way to get arrested.

  • I heard the sheriff using the six-gallons-per-plant-per-day figure on KMUD news.

    [Insert string of colorful expletives here.]

    It’s preposterous and they know it. The environmental pillage is bad enough but exaggerating it that egregiously will NOT redound to the eventual victory of sanity.

    And, having known a Bulgarian WWII vet who’d refused an arm amputation despite a bone infection that NEVER was able to be completely eradicated, who actually preferred living with that constant pain to losing his arm for close to five decades, we’re talking some tough stock, but HOW does this continue to be a problem when the situation is this dire?

    • I was gonna mention that exaggerated stat. too (re. 5 gallons a day water PER – if this comment gets separated from the one to which I was speaking) in reply to the “shock and awe” comment above …………WHY they need to lie? The truth is quite bad enough…………I s’poze ‘city folk’ will believe.

      Ya think they really only grabbed 80K hitting that many people? No way! They should at least have to pay for their raids themselves with those funds. But no, they just buy toys and tell the taxpayers how much the raids cost them (the taxpayers).

      I think we’re one industry that will NOT get to write its own reg.s. There are many more consumers (and voters who do or don’t consume) than growers and they probably will be swayed by these lies and away it goes……….

  • There’s a world of difference between civil and criminal enforcement tactics. The recent push for new environmental regulations (civil and administrative) will get zero support from growers should “environmental” raids become the new mantra for sheriffs and multi-agency drug task forces.

    Even so, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board will meet in August to give final approval to cannabis regulations and penalties that may be used more as a punitive deterrent than long-term solution. Beyond growers themselves, non-resident property owners also will be subject to large fines and cleanup costs should their tenants skip town.

    Certainly, there’s a need for new attention to environmental issues with cannabis cultivation. Whether the state is acting in good faith with cannabis cultivators, or simply seeking new “tools” for law enforcement sweeps and raids, remains to be seen. In the meantime, continued “cooperation” with the water board may not be worth the possible risk, and a fresh look at the proposed cannabis regs themselves — including methods of enforcement — is recommended.

  • 1975 when it all started panther gap oh to be gap tied ment something I guess it still does

  • They don’t care for the fish, it’s just an excuse to get on your properties!
    Get real, they got their own agenda and want to slow down the growing business.

  • Is anyone holding them accountable for raising water temperatures in the eel?

  • Garberville dude

    Kinda funny how the guy who owned that water bladder was at the blue room bragging about replanting all his deps right after so he could still get the fall harvest. It barely made a dent in his underground bank account..

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