Grower Pleads Guilty To Felony Environmental Violations

A Northern California cannabis grower has pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges related to environmental violations.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday announced that 37-year-old Cazadero resident Michael Silva pleaded guilty on October 14 to charges that included water diversion, streambed alteration, and water pollution.

The Court also charged Silva with failure to obtain the necessary permits for cannabis cultivation from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), State Water Resources Control Board, and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Silva pleaded guilty to two additional misdemeanor counts related to unlawful cannabis cultivation.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Mark Urioste presided over the case.

“The defendant’s activities not only presented unacceptable harm to the environment but also contributed to the illegal cannabis market,” stated District Attorney Jill Ravitch. “A problem for this community and for lawful cultivation.”

The CDFW discovered Sila’s grow operation in September of 2019 and executed a search warrant that revealed the unpermitted commercial activities in the hills above Cazadero.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Silva had diverted water without permits and conducted unpermitted construction work without implementing best management practices to prevent water pollution.

Under an agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, Silva will not receive sentencing as long as he abides by an agreement with the prosecution that requires him to perform 300 hours of community service, obtain the proper permits, and fulfill other requirements related to his cultivation activities.

Part of the agreement requires Silva to obtain permits to conduct stream restoration over the next year.

Upon completion of the agreement in one year, the Court will dismiss Silva’s felony charges.

If Silva fails to keep his portion of the agreement, he faces potential administrative enforcement from CDFW and the Water Boards and is subject to a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.