Busted marijuana growing operation damaged environment

Photo by DNR
A stream feeds irrigation pipe that leads to a marijuana growing operation discovered this week in Kittitas County. Photo: DNR

You are taking a break from a hike or a day of fishing on a warm sunny day to relax by a cool mountain stream and you spot yards and yards of flexible black plastic pipe leading out of the stream and into the woods. A remote cabin with running water is just over the hill, perhaps? Probably not. These improvised — and illegal — irrigation systems are among the signs of a nearby marijuana grow, like the one authorities raided earlier this week in Kittitas County.

The seizure of some 13,500 marijuana plants valued at more than $10 million had many of the classic signs of a well-organized growing operation: irrigation system, terracing of hillsides, land clearing, fertilizers, and other supplies. The operation was discovered a few days earlier on a remote section of DNR-managed lands in Manastash Canyon west of Ellensburg. A team of federal and state personnel removed the plants, supplies and trash early Tuesday (August 28). No suspects were found.

In addition to the potential risk of violence to those happen upon one, a growing operation — large or small — can be destructive to the environment. Growers remove native plants, cut down or trim trees that block sunlight, terrace hillsides, remove native grasses, and apply fertilizers and other chemicals in quantities and concentrations that the land may not tolerate. Those chemicals frequently drain into the watershed and local creeks that landowners might use for their water supply.

irrigation pipe and hoses
Irrigation equipment was among the supplies seized when state and federal law enforcement teams busted a marijuana growing operation on state trust land in Kittitas County. Photo: DNR.

More photos and information:

Ellensburg Daily Record: Authorities seize 13,500 marijuana plants in Manastash Canyon

Yakima Herald-Republic: Kittitas County seizes pot grow worth $10M

KOMO News: Deputies find huge pot grow in Kittitas County