CHEROKEE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Authorities from several agencies uncovered more than 15,000 marijuana plants near the Angelina river in Cherokee county Thursday.
According to a press release from the sheriff's office, investigators met with Texas DPS officers, DEA agents and the Texas national guard for routine flights to check for drug growth.
around 2:45 p.m., the crew on board the DPS helicopter located a possible site near the banks of the Angelina river, about 1.5 miles south of fm 343.
Ground crews were notified and discovered an operation spanning several patches. The plants ranged in size from 12 inches to eight feet. The site was set up with an irrigation system from generators and water pumps from the river, along with fully equipped camping sites for the workers to live on-site and cultivate the plants.
"they had three camps set up," sheriff James Campbell said. "they even had their own garden growing. It was pretty elaborate. They had some hoses ran down into the Angelina river and they had some pumps and generators to water their garden with."
authorities did not catch anyone on the site, but suspect there were workers there when the helicopter discovered the first patch.
"you know the chances of actually finding out who was behind this grow are probably less than great," said Capt.. John afield.
Authorities also located guns and ammunition stashed in various locations around the patches and campsite.
As of 7:30 a.m., authorities had harvested just one of four patches, which yielded more than 7,500 plants. They expect to harvest between 15,000 and 20,000 plants.
The mission, called domestic marijuana eradication program, is made to coordinate and support law enforcement officers in finding domestically grown marijuana.
According to Raffield, it took two 16-foot trailers and a pickup to haul all the plants Friday. They were then incinerated.
Raffield estimates the plants are worth more than $18 million.
"this is a professional deal," Campbell said. "it wasn't just somebody who decided to grow."
Nevertheless, lawmen are confident they set the drug operation back a step or two. The results of a summer's worth of cultivation literally went up in smoke.