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Value of marijuana plants seized in Bonsall over $15 million, authorities say

An authority with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Narcotics Task Force says the street value of the 10,150 marijuana plants seized in a steep canyon off Interstate 15 at Gopher Canyon Road in Bonsall yesterday carry of street value of over $15 million, although early wire service reports put the value at $10 million.

The plants, although short, were prolific with high quality cannabis.

"They had been [growing] there several months, but due to the lack of sunlight, the plants had good bud on them and that's what the growers want, a significant amount of bud," said Lt. Joe Rodi.

Rodi explained that the plants were being grown under the canopy of trees surrounded by very thick brush.

"We had to contact some homeowners in the area and ask if we could hike through their yards to access the canyon area; the brush was very thick and it was very difficult to get through," said Rodi.

Rodi said it was not possible to see the plants from the freeway or other roadway.

"It was hidden pretty well," he said. Rodi would not disclose how authorities became aware of the marijuana growing operation.

"We're not going to give away our secrets," he said. But one thing was clear, the plants were being irrigated through a pirated method from another property in the area.

"We believe [the water] was being taken from an avocado grove the next canyon over," said Rodi. When asked how common it is for a property owner to realize water is being diverted from his or her lines to water an illegal operation, he said, "A lot of avocado growers don't even realize they are being tapped into."

Given the number of plants confiscated at the location, Rodi called the seizure magnitude "moderate to high."

"[This] was a pretty good-sized crop," he said.

Rodi said at first glance his team thought there were only about 500 plants at the location, and were surprised to find the operation much larger than they expected.

A team of eight law enforcement agents were dispatched to handle the removal of the plants, cutting the stalks off at the ground and placing them into bundles.

"They were then taken to a storage location prior to being destroyed," said Rodi, adding that the cutting method is adequate for eradication because the plants are "one time plants that do not regenerate."

"We do not contaminate the ground anymore than it already is," he said.

No arrests have been made at this time, Rodi said, and the investigation is hampered by the fact that little evidence was found at the site to work with.

Previous version of story

(Wed. Sept. 1, 2010, 11 a.m.)

BONSALL - More than $10 million worth of marijuana plants were found growing in a steep canyon in Bonsall yesterday, Tues. Aug. 31.

The seizure, made off Interstate 15, near Gopher Canyon Road, involved 10,150 plants, San Diego Sheriff's Detective Steve Reed told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Reed, a member of a narcotics task force, said the marijuana growers were diverting water from an avocado orchard to grow the illegal drug, the newspaper reported. But it was not immediately clear whether that's what led authorities to it.

No arrests have been reported yet.

Watch this site for more information as it becomes available.


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