Garberville Sanitary District eyes putting cannabis grows on different water meter

Former Garberville Sanitary District board of directors member Gary Wellborn resigned at the Oct. 24 meeting. – Garberville Sanitary District — Contributed

The Garberville Sanitary District Board of Directors bid farewell to a resigned board member and discussed preliminary plans to put cannabis cultivators on a separate water meter from other commercial and residential uses.

Former board member Gary Wellborn, in a letter to the board, said he’s moving with his wife to Arizona.

“I have enjoyed my short time on the GSD BOD,” the letter reads.

GSD general manager Ralph Emerson said he’s work on a lot of boards and commission during his time in Southern Humboldt.

“[Welhorn is] one of the best board members I’ve ever worked with,” he said of Wellborn.

Emerson described Wellborn as meticulous, caring and hard working.

“He’s not a rubber stamp, he definitely wants to do the best for the community he represents,” he said.

Emerson said one thing Wellborn worked hard on is ensuring there is adequate water supply and access for emergency fire services. That is also made apparent in Wellborn’s resignation letter.

“ In light of the massive fires in Northern Humboldt and the now extremely destructive fires in the Santa Rosa area, I would like the GSD to continue pressing the State of California to allow GSD to place fire hydrants in critical areas along the Kimtu water line. Having a 14,000-foot water line passing through a densely wooded area with not one fire hydrant is just criminal,” Wellborn wrote.

He ended his letter by saying, “This is not the beautiful place we moved to 18 years ago.”

Wellborn couldn’t be reached for further comment by the publishing deadline.

“He was a pleasure to work with,” Emerson said.

He added that the appointment to fill Wellborn’s seat will be discussed during the Nov. 28 board meeting.

Agricultural cannabis water use ordinance

“There’s no intention at all of denying anybody water,” Emerson stressed when explaining the preliminary plan to the Redwood Times on Friday.

He said the GSD treats water from the South Fork of the Eel River for 426 residential and commercial customers in Garberville. Over 30 of those customers are commercial cannabis businesses that are coming into compliance with the county ordinance by showing they have a legal water source, Emerson said.

“They could take all the water they want as long as they pay for it,” he said.

So technically these business owners aren’t doing anything wrong, Emerson said.

“The priority is that I have enough water for human consumption,” he said.

This could be done by adding a separate water meter just for cannabis businesses that could be shut off or limited in times of water scarcity or drought to conserve the clean water for drinking, Emerson said. But that is all up to the board to decide.

The possible ordinance was outlined in the agenda packet of the Oct. 24 board meeting. It suggests charging base rates for water that could increase when water consumption exceeds 20 units per month and inspections of the operation and its infrastructure.

Emerson said he hopes to have a draft ordinance prepared by the Nov. 28 board meeting in case the board decides to move forward with it. It can only be adopted following a public hearing process. If it ends up getting implemented other water districts may follow suit, Emerson said.

He belongs to the California Special District Association and, at its last meeting, he brought this idea up and found that none of the other special districts had implemented something like this.

“Other districts want to do something similar as soon as they see how this works,” Emerson said.

Board of directors application information can be accessed through

Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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