LAKEPORT — The Lake County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider approving an agreement that would see the county being paid by the State of California for registering hemp growers and enforcing hemp regulations.
Agricultural Commissioner Steven Hajik writes in a memo to the board that the agreement with the California Department of Food and Agriculture would “reimburse the county up to $2,000” or “registering hemp growers, seed breeders, and enforcing all laws, regulations pertaining to industrial hemp.”
Hajik notes there are now 33 hemp registrants in Lake County. The county has allowed hemp cultivation since May, when California opened its doors to the crop following federal legalization at the beginning of the year with the passage of the 2018 “Farm Bill.”
Cannabis plants testing at THC levels lower than one-third of a percentage point, per the federal definition, are now an agricultural commodity that in Lake County is regulated almost as lightly as crops like winegrapes and walnuts—a far cry from the heavy regulations imposed on hemp’s nearly genetically identical twin, marijuana.
Hajik’s office, in the absence of county-imposed hemp regulations, has been registering growers in accordance with state law. In addition to registration, the office will be reimbursed for personnel training, public outreach and enforcement activities against non-compliant cultivators, as well as for related equipment, vehicle and bookkeeping costs.
Would-be hemp growers in California are required to pay a $900 fee for their application, which local ag commissioners like Hajik collect on behalf of the state.
If approved by the board of supervisors, the hemp regulation enforcement agreement would end June 30, 2020.
Potter Valley Project
The board on Tuesday will also consider approving a resolution discussed this week that would express the board’s intent to participate in discussions about the future of the Potter Valley Project, a hydroelectric project that diverts water from the Eel River to the Russian River and includes Scott Dam, which forms Lake Pillsbury.
The Potter Valley Project is likely to change in coming years since PG&E, which operates the project, has said it will no longer maintain it. The removal of Scott Dam is on the table, and is advocated for by groups like Friends of the Eel River and California Trout.
The resolution signifies the county wants to be a part of a planning agreement group that consists of the Sonoma County Water Agency, the Mendocino Inland Water and Power Commission, California Trout and the County of Humboldt. The group has submitted a notice of intent to complete a feasibility study for taking over the Potter Valley Project from PG&E.
The county’s resolution also would signify its intent to continue to participate in a 22-member ad hoc committee organized by California Senator Jared Huffman (District 2) aimed at finding a “two-basin solution” for how the project will be continued.
Transient occupancy tax
Also on Tuesday, the board of supervisors will consider adopting a resolution that would grant authority to the tax collector’s office to waive transient occupancy tax penalties and interest in advance of several likely appeals from hotel operators.
A memo from County Administrative Officer Carol Huchingson notes that even with the resolution adopted, the board would still retain the power to determine whether to charge the tax penalities.
Huchingson notes that some lodging operators, “generally vacation home rentals,” have been “unaware they were required to collect the tax” while others stopped collecting it and still others have collected the tax but have not given the money to the county.
The Lake County Board of Supervisors meets on the first, second, third and fourth Tuesdays of each month beginning at 9 a.m. in the board chambers at the Lake County Courthouse, 255 N. Forbes St., Lakeport. Agendas can be found online at countyoflake.legistar.com.