About 4,500 marijuana plants were being ripped out of the soil on Marin Municipal Water District land in West Marin on Tuesday, one day after they were discovered by a warden passing through the remote area, according to the Marin County Sheriff's Department.
The plants, located about 18 miles west of Novato and just west of the Walker Creek Ranch, were pinpointed after California Department of Fish and Game warden came across a man wearing camouflage clothing and carrying pruning clippers walking along Marshall-Petaluma Road, said sheriff's Lt. Barry Heying.
At about 11 a.m. Monday, the warden determined that the man was associated with an illegal pot growing operation and called in sheriff's deputies to investigate. Members of the county's Marijuana Eradication Team conducted a raid that began early Tuesday morning amid thick manzanita bushes in an area spread out over about a quarter of a mile, Heying said.
Personnel from state Fish and Game, the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, MMWD and the sheriff’s office participated in the raid and eradication effort, which continued into Tuesday afternoon. The estimated street value of the pot is unknown.
The plants averaged 5 feet tall and were fed by an elaborate irrigation system, Heying said. Agents reported finding rat traps, rodent poison, fertilizer and trash on the site as well. There was evidence of erosion damage, and pollution from chemicals and pesticides.
Heying said just the one suspect was arrested and that investigators were working to connect others to the operation. The arrested man was identified as an undocumented alien; he is in custody of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, Heying said.
"Those responsible for caring for and guarding marijuana grow sites also pose a danger to hikers, bicyclists, ranchers and water district rangers who patrol the lands," Heying wrote in a release.
The location of the growing operation was in the 1400 block of Marshall-Petaluma Road, not far from Walker Creek Ranch, which is owned by the Marin County Office of Education and used as a science camp for school kids.
Anyone with information concerning this matter is encouraged to call the Marin County Sheriff’s Office at 415-473-7233 and could be eligible for a cash reward. To remain anonymous, call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.