One of the warning signs posted along a west county road. Photo courtesy of Road Warrior reader

Planning on dumping trash along a road in the country? Think again.

Sonoma County has erected signs prohibiting dumping garbage at 58 sites along county roads from Bodega Bay to the Sonoma Valley, warning “This area is under camera surveillance!!!” And it actually is. Or it might be.

As part of a two-year, $500,000 grant from the state Integrated Waste Management Board, the county bought about 10 solar-powered surveillance cameras that are moved around the 58 sites to take photos of people dumping garbage, said Rob Silva, road operations manager for the county Transportation and Public Works Department. The cameras are mounted high on tree branches and often are hard to spot.

Silva said at least four people have been convicted of illegal dumping because of evidence from the motion-detection cameras, which have flash capability for night photography.

On Mark West Station Road near Trenton-Healdsburg Road, a motion-activated, surveillance camera is mounted up in a tree -- look for the box on the tree in upper center of the photo. Click photo to enlarge. Photo courtesy of a Road Warrior reader.

He said the county used to spend $300,000 a year to pick up garbage along county-maintained roads, but budget cuts eliminated that. Now, he said, some of that work is done by a probation crew that picks up trash two days a week at a cost of $70,000 a year; a second probation crew, at a cost of $140,000 funded by the Dry Creek Rancheria’s River Rock Casino, that picks up litter only along Highway 128 in the Alexander Valley where the casino is; and crews from North Bay Disposal as part of its garbage hauling contract with the county.

Silva said officials picked the 58 sites for potential surveillance because those road-side areas had serious dumping problems.

Although the state grant ran out last year, the county has tried to keep up the surveillance program, sending a worker out a few hours a week to download the cameras’ images onto a laptop computer so that any evidence can be turned over to the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office. The cameras are moved to different sites as needed.

Silva said the amount of garbage dumped at the 58 sites has dropped since the program was started.

The county has a website — CLICK HERE to go there — with more information about such dumping and how to report illegal dumping.

A Press Democrat story in January 2009 reported on the first person convicted under the program. Teodosio Valdivia Paredes, 39, of Windsor was photographed dumping trash at a site near the Russian River. He pleaded guilty in November 2008 to illegal dumping and was fined $250 and 40 hours of community service.

According to the story, the cameras cost $6,000 each and take sharp photos up to 100 feet away. To read that story, CLICK HERE.

One of the tree-mounted surveillance cameras. Photo courtesy of a Road Warrior reader.