Illegal dumping

Photo courtesy of Metro Creative

A state-funded illegal dumping solution grants agriculturally zoned property owners up to $50,000 in free funds to clean up unlawfully discarded items on their land, and implement measures to deter the behavior.

Agriculturally zoned property owners besieged by illegal dumping on their land have long had a free resource to clean up and prevent the messes. Now, the Contra Costa Resource Conservation District is leading the charge to put the little-known program to greater use.

The state-funded illegal dumping solution will grant agriculturally zoned property owners up to $50,000 in free funds to clean up unlawfully discarded items on their land, and implement measures to deter the behavior.

“This program was enacted in statute in 1997 and has been available since,” said Stephanie L. Becker, a grant manager for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

Three agriculturally zoned property owners in Knightsen, Antioch and Port Costa, have successfully secured grants since Contra Costa Resource Conservation district officials, in 2017, stumbled upon the previously unknown, 22-year-old program, and several more county landowners are in the application process.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery administers the program, which offers up to $200,000 annually to all Contra Costa properties combined (max. $50,000 per site) and up to $1.5 million to all state lands combined.

Port Costa’s Bull Valley Agricultural Center’s Earl Flewellen, the first county landowner to apply for the program, used $50,000 of funding to remove 110 cubic yards of construction debris, 1.5 tons of household waste and 108 tires that had accumulated from illegal dumps on 11 acres over the past 40 or 50 years, said Ben Weise. Weise is a resource conservationist at the Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, a non-regulatory special district of the state that assists farmers, ranchers, creek and watershed groups with soil and water issues on their property.

Antioch and Knightsen grape growers, the second and third applicants, found similar success, securing a combined $31,000 to rid the Antioch property of illegally dumped household waste and a car engine. In Knightsen, they were able to remove 28 tires, illegally dumped soil and construction waste.

“I have heard from some people this program is too good to be true; it can’t possibly be real,” said Weise. “But it is.” Aside from cleanup, the funds may also be used to implement dumping-preventive measures, such as gates, fences, signage, lights or cameras.

Landowners may also apply to reimburse themselves for past self-funded garbage removal, provided they still have proper documentation, such as receipts and photos of the past problem.

“We ultimately want to keep these farms and ranches clean,” Weise said. “The last thing we want is tires, appliances, car parts, or whatever slowly breaking down into the soil. If we can get that off the land and into the proper place, that way it is ultimately out of the creek, out of the bay, out of the Delta.”

Landowners whose property is zoned for agriculture and is the site of illegally dumped items are eligible to submit grant applications, which can be submitted in August, November and February.

Weise can assist prospective applicants free of charge. He said the application process involves putting together a prospective cleanup or work plan, budget, a few grant documents and collecting some work bids. Applicants may also apply for dump fee reimbursement only if they’d rather complete the work themselves.

Prospective grantees usually hear back within about two months if their submission has been accepted. Awardees have at least two years to use the funds.

“I just want to get the word out about this program because it costs the farmers nothing,” said Weise, noting that he’s run across all sorts of unique pieces of garbage, including Ford Model A vehicle tires and 1970 holiday-series Coors beer cans.

The next round of applications are due on Nov. 7. Interested landowners should contact Weise as soon as possible at 925-690-4145, or email