Task Force Gives KNDO First Hand Look at Big Pot Bust Near Satus Pass
Yakima, WA - The multi-agency task force sweeping Central Washington for marijuana grows hit the jackpot near Satus Pass.
A day later -- they were still removing plants there.
The total is estimated at more than 41,000 plants.
And KNDO was there for the big bust.
"The climate just makes it the perfect place and the very remote areas," says Lt. Rich Wiley of Washington State Patrol.
The spotters from the air saw this grow on tribal lands earlier in the week. Now, it's time to clean up.
Helicopters fly over steep terrain and work with officers who have been dropped on the mountain to round up the grow.
But that's not the only concern.
"A lot of times we find arms. And they will defend their grow because there's so much money involved," says Lt. Wiley
This spot is just a few miles across Klickitat County's northern border.
The task force was here in 2004 when the annual operation first started.
They found more than 64,000 pot plants, which was the fourth largest bust in U-S history at the time.
Washington State Patrol says most grow operations like this are run by Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
Many are on tribal lands so without help from the Nation, these busts wouldn't be possible.
"Not only are they growing illegally, they are damaging the land," says Davis Washines, Chief of Tribal Police for the Yakama Nation, "Plus, there's all the garbage they leave."
While the helicopter brings back load after load, the ground team stacks the plants in a military truck.
More than 55-people work in tandem until the sundown goes down .
"This National Guard truck has 37,000 plants," says Lt. Wiley.
And there's no more room to spare.
The street value for the plants if they reach full maturity is a cool $70 million.
What will happen with those millions of dollars worth of marijuana?
Lt. Wiley says they plan to burn it.