County agents help remove 20,000 plants
Local law enforcement agents took part in an effort to eradicate 20,000 marijuana plants and remove debris from several grow sites in the county this week.
While authorities typically eradicate marijuana gardens mid-summer through early fall and leave the campsites intact for volunteers with the Bureau of Land Management to remove debris in mid-October, local agents with the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement and SWAT teams helped in both efforts during a 24-hour operation Monday and Tuesday.
Grow sites reclaimed during “Operation Mercury” included Saginaw Creek, Chiquito Creek West, Carter Creek, Corlieu Falls near Lewis Creek, and Cheapo Saddle near Bass Lake.
The terrain in these remote locations was so dense and steep agents had to be lowered in and lifted out by harness using an extraction technique called STABO (Stabilized Tactical Airborne Body Operations).
“Finding these grow sites and moving in has traditionally been a gamble,” said Madera County Sheriff John Anderson. “If we eradicate too quickly, we leave drug traffickers time to replant. If we move in too late, we run the risk that they’ve harvested their crop.” ...