CAZADERO (CBS SF) – A man has pleaded guilty to environmental violations in connection with a cannabis growing operation on his property in western Sonoma County, prosecutors said.
According to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, 37-year-old Michael Silva pleaded guilty to three felony charges, along with two misdemeanors related to the unlawful cultivation of cannabis earlier this month.
Prosecutors said Silva had been growing 1,450 cannabis plants at his property in the hills above Cazadero when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered the unpermitted marijuana growing operation in September of 2019.
A search warrant revealed Silva’s operation was diverting water without permits and engaged in unpermitted construction work without best management practices that would result in water pollution if not corrected, according to the DA.
“The defendant’s activities not only presented unacceptable harm to the environment but also contributed to the illegal cannabis market, a problem for this community and for lawful cultivation,” said District Attorney Jill Ravitch.
Among the environmental violations Silva admitted to included water diversion, streambed alteration and water pollution, prosecutors said. He also failed to obtain necessary permits from multiple agencies, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Water Resources Control Board and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, Silva has been ordered to perform remediation, 300 hours of community service, obtain the correct permits and satisfy other requirements related to his cultivation activities. In exchange, the felony charges would be dropped.
If Silva does not fulfill the terms of the agreement, he may face additional administrative enforcement and be subject to a sentence of up to 10 years, prosecutors said.