Drug Agents are turning up the heat as "Operation Mercury" kicks into high gear in Madera County.
In what is being touted as a one-two punch against Drug Trafficking Organizations, MADNET (Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team), along with 32 agents, completed a 24-hour marathon to not only eradicate more than 20–thousand marijuana plants, they successfully completed the first ever reclamation operation during their mission, said Madera County Sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart.
Agents with MADNET, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service, Fish & Game, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), and 16 sworn Peace Officers with Madera county's SWAT Team took part in the 24-hour operation on Monday and Tuesday.
Unlike years past, when authorities handled eradication missions and reclamation operations in two stages, Madera County embraced the challenge to do it all at once. Normally, agents eradicate the gardens mid-summer through early fall, and leave the campsites intact for volunteers with BLM to hike in mid-October to remove the debris.
"Finding these grow sites and moving in has traditionally been a gamble," said Sheriff John Anderson. "If we eradicate too quickly, we leave drug traffickers time to replant. If we move in too late, we run the risk that they've harvested their crop."
This year, with help from the Bureau of Land Management, agents from MADNET, Fish & Game, US Forest Service, CAMP and the county's SWAT Team, Madera County was able to tackle both -- hence, the 'one-two-punch,' said Stuart.
"As a result of their efforts," said Sheriff Anderson "they successfully dismantled the entire illicit operation for 2012."
The plants seized from each of the gardens were anywhere from 2 feet to 4 and 5 feet tall. Had they been able to mature, they more than likely would have been ready for harvest sometime around mid-August, Stuart said.
"By destroying the campsites, Madera County has killed any chance of growers reseeding this season." Sheriff Anderson says while this year's cash crop for Drug Traffickers has been stunned, he says it is important for the public to realize that they [drug traffickers] will return. "And next year we'll be back, and we plan to launch the same attack."
During the operation, agents pulled enough drip lines to stretch more than 3 miles. The grow sites were elaborate and sophisticated operations -- some equipped with timers.
Agents seized propane tanks, stockpiled food purchased in bulk and still in their packaging, bags of fertilizer, clothing, bedding, tools and trash.
No arrests were made during the 24-hour operation.
Grow sites reclaimed during Madera County's Operation Mercury Mission include: Saginaw Creek, Chiquito Creek West, Carter Creek, Corlieu Falls near Lewis Creek, and Cheapo Saddle -- not far from Bass Lake.
The terrain in these remote locations was so dense and steep, the only way agents could carry out their operation was to STABO (Stabilized Tactical Airborne Body Operations) in.
- Pictures provided by the Madera County Sheriff's Department -
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