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Cleanup begins at illegal cannabis plantation

Suspected Mexican cartel-linked growers were found on the site of a cannabis plantation originally discovered last year. When state Fish and Wildlife officers returned to the spot this year to assess cleanup and site testing it was discovered that the plantation was again in use.

It was Aug. 1 when a multi-agency force arrived at the scene to eliminate the plantation — with more than 11,000 cannabis plants — and make arrests, if possible.

Two suspected Mexican cartel related growers were seen at the location. One man escaped. Another, Mario Valencia, 52, of Mexico was arrested. He was charged with possession of cannabis for sales, cultivation and stream diversion.

“The garden was discovered last year, but it was not in use,” said Steve Peay, an investigations sergeant and a member of the cannabis cultivation task force for the sheriff’s office. But there was plenty of evidence that the location was used, at least in a prior year.

A Fish and Wildlife officer was taking an IERC (Integral Ecology Research Center) ecologist to the location to help determine what was needed for site cleanup from last year’s discovery, Peay explained.

A survey of any plantation location is necessary to determine what chemicals were used at that location. Then a plan is put in place to attempt to rehabilitate the area. “The new and old grow sites in our county are being heavily tested for the presence of pesticides and fertilizers,” Peay explained.

“Then we do what’s called a reclamation of the site for trash, waterlines and chemicals of the thousands of pounds of trash,” that are typically associated with men living at a site for the grow season.

“The site will never be the same but it’s a start for recovery.”

But when they arrived, “The grow was discovered to be active again,” Peay explained.

The Plumas County Sheriff’s SWAT team, other sheriff’s officers, USFS law enforcement, California Fish and Wildlife and members of the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) targeted a marijuana grow in the Crocker Mountain area in northeastern Plumas County.

No weapons were recovered at the Crocker Mountain plantation, but officers did find pellet rifles, Peay said.

More than 11,000 plants were discovered at this location. Once they were cut down, they were taken to an undisclosed location and buried.

“The garbage will eventually be cleaned up by the U.S. Forest Service and the IERC,” with other agencies assisting.

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