Warden Catches Two Men Allegedly Stealing Water from Yuba River

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YUBA COUNTY --

A state Fish and Wildlife warden caught two men in the act of pumping water from the Yuba River into a pick-up truck equipped with a large tank on Tuesday, officials said.

The warden was responding to a call by someone who thought their actions were suspicious. Lt. Warden Chris Stoots said the men weren't very responsive when questioned, but the warden had his suspicions.

"As he pushed a little harder trying to get more details about what they were going to do with the water, he felt that he struck a nerve when he asked the question of whether or not it was going to be used for illegal marijuana cultivation," Stoots said.

There was no hard evidence that it was the case, but Stoots said the area on the Yuba River where Highway 20 crosses is a prime area for illegal pot grows.

Stoots said it is nearing harvest seasons during another year of drought.

"People are going to all measures to find that little bit of water to help bring that cash in," Stoots said.

Alesha Teehee lives 15 minutes from where the suspects were caught. She brought her family to ride motorbikes the day after the incident.

"I'm surprised they did it in the middle of the day, that's pretty gutsy," Teehee said. She was not surprised that the water might have been intended for an illegal pot garden or that water was being stolen.

She pays a pretty penny for water used on her property and said pot plants need a lot of water to cultivate.

While there seemed to be plenty of water in the Yuba River at that spot, many residents are thinking big picture as far as the drought is concerned.

"You steal a bunch of water, and there is none for the fish, and this goes down to the people growing our food, and so if you're stealing it, other people aren't getting it," Teehee said.

The Yuba County District Attorney's office is reviewing the case to see what local and state statutes apply before charges are filed.