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20,000 Pot Plants Found Growing In Chelan County [WA]
    #4524650 - 08/12/05 01:50 AM (12 years, 1 month ago)

20,000 Pot Plants Found Growing In Chelan County
August 11, 2005 - komotv.com

CHELAN COUNTY - 20,000 pot plants have been found growing in the national forest in Chelan County in the past to weeks.

Sheriff Mike Harum tells KOMO 4 News it appears to be part of an organized grow by groups from either California or Mexico.

Harum says the groups are walking 2-3 miles back into the woods carrying small marijuana plants in egg cartons, and then setting up camp and tending the plants for 2-3 months.

KOMO 4 News took an aerial trip over the area with the sheriff; the plants are nearly impossible to spot from the air. But Harum says when the sun hits them just right, they shimmer and you can spot the emerald green color.

The pots are planted on huge tracts underneath evergreen trees and vine maples. Workers are bringing in plastic hose and plastic with them, and then they dam up small streams and construct irrigation systems or water impoundment so they can care for the pot plant.

Harum says the marijuana is of extremely high quality with a THC content of 30 percent, and the problem has been growing for the past 3-4 years.

Harum added he doesn't know if the marijuana cultivation was started after the U.S. clamped down on traffic across the Canadian Border following 9-11. But a local woodsman, Brett McGinnis told KOMO 4 News he's hiked in these woods for more than 20 years and he did not see marijuana until the past three or four years.

So far, the sheriff's office has made only one arrest, that of a California man. There are indications that some of those who hauled in material were transported to a grow to put in a grow.

Chief Criminal Deputy Sheriff Clyde Foreman says they have no idea where those people are or what state they're in. He says some of the workers are told: "if you don't do this, we'll kill your family."

Foreman said other workers are believed to be paid up to $400 a day to tend the marijuana plants.

Yet even with the compensation of 20,000 plants, with an estimated value at maturity of $30 million, the sheriff's office believes it has found only 20 percent of the total number planted in the county.

The DEA, FBI, and the Chelan County Sheriff's office tell KOM 4 News they are continuing to fly the area searching for additional grow operations. There were two additional flyovers on Thursday. We do now know if additional grows were discovered.

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