Rural Northern California has always been the great bastion where solidly conservative Republicans go to escape the Democrats’ nanny state. NorCal political discourse is focused on family values, support of agriculture, gun rights and a visceral loathing of crony capitalists like Al Gore. That’s why the shenanigans of Shasta County Supervisor Glen Hawes is about to give the Republican Party such a black eye.
Seven years ago Reverge Anselmo left the Los Angeles rat race, to build a world class winery and cattle ranch just outside Redding, California. As a former combat Marine, international businessman and son of the founder of the Univision media empire, Anselmo began investing tens of millions into the depressed rural economy. A deeply religious man, Anselmo even worked with the Vatican to design and construct a Romanesque Catholic Chapel on the highest point of his vineyards as a place of personal worship and reflection for visiting monks.
But just as Anselmo Winery picked their second harvest on October 16, 2007, Andrew Jenson of the Shasta County office of the California Water Quality Control Board came on the property and issued a “stop-order” for all agricultural operations. Mr. Jenson demanded that Mr. Anselmo immediately spend over $10,000 on erosion control at various parts of the ranch. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Jenson issued clean-up and abatement Order #729, demanding tens of thousands of expenditures and threatening daily fines of $10,000 to $25,000.
Anselmo later would learn that Mr. Jenson had shaken down the farm to the west for $20,000 and the farm to the east for $28,000, as ransom money to pacify the “Fish Cops” and other regulators. A stressed out Mr. Anselmo called Les Baugh, his local County Supervisor, about his predicament. Supervisor Baugh said, “Somebody has got to say enough is enough,” and agreed to be that man. But he called back shortly thereafter and said that when it comes to this issue, he was not that man. Soon thereafter, Anselmo received his first $240 fine from Shasta County.
Mr. Anselmo hired a local lawyer who notified the Fish & Game Department that under Section 404 of the United States Clean Water Act, agriculture activity has been exempt from “Fish Cop” tyranny since 1985. Shortly thereafter, platoons of vans with the insignia of the United States Army Corps. of Engineers arrived and put frogmen in Anselmo’s local creek to take underwater soil samples in search of “single cell organisms.” He also discovered another group of regulators at the 200 foot waterfall on the other side of his property, supposedly trying to prove that an extinct species of salmon had once jumped up the falls and spawned in the pools above.
One of Anselmo Vineyards largest vendors and a regular on his property was Hawes Farm & Ranch Supply, whose proprietor, Glen Hawes, is also a Shasta County Supervisor. Supervisor Hawes visited Mr. Anselmo and stated that he owned “Stillwater Plains Mitigation Bank” and the Supervisor suggested it might be helpful if Anselmo bought “environmental credits” from his bank.
Research from a messy divorce and subsequent bankruptcy filing of Mr. Hawes’ son, Greg, has indicated the Supervisor’s “mitigation bank” is mandated as a monopoly in Shasta County and has already reaped $3 million since 2002 from local businesses. Even the City of Redding pays Stillwater Plains an $85,000 fee anytime they need to move an elderberry tree. Cal Trans also paid Hawes cash to build an overpass.
Generous Supervisor Hawes appears to have taken Shasta County Resource Management Director Russ Mull and his family on hunting trips to Mexico, Canada and Venezuela. Hawes in his benevolence, donated environmental credits toward approval to build a Veteran’s Hospital, and then charged the facility for soil movement.
Shasta County in a June legal brief arrogantly argues that Anselmo’s “‘it’s my property and I can do what I want’ attitude has led to these lawsuits.” Because Anselmo refuses to “play ball”, Shasta County has racked up 7,467 days of fines totaling over $18.7 million. Anselmo filed lawsuits in state and federal court and has received numerous favorable rulings. But three days after his last victory in Appellate Court, Shasta County retaliated by declaring the Chapel a “public nuisance” and red tagged the winery and ranch to try to financially starve Anselmo and his 38 employees.
Supervisor Glen Hawes’ family were legendary California pioneers and operated the first hay combine north of Sacramento in the 1800s. But today the Supervisor farms “environmental credits”, instead of crops. From 2002 to 2008, there were plenty of land developers happy to “pay to play.” But after the housing bust, Shasta County farmers and ranchers appear to now be his prime business targets. Supervisor Hawes hasn’t made as much money as Al Gore, but with gangs of County regulators furiously generating new prospects, selling environmental credits looks to remain very profitable.
Chriss Street and Paul Preston Co-Host
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