By ROBERT S. MERRILL
Area law enforcement officials, including those from Franklin County, on Wednesday helped dispose tons of marijuana in one of the largest growing operations in the state.
The plantation-style operation had over 40,000 hybrid plants ready for harvest in less than a month with an estimated street value of $80.5 million, according to law enforcement officials.
It was located in Caribou County, several miles west of Niter on state-owned land near Sedgwick Peak. No arrests have been made.
A number of agencies on Tuesday spent the day pulling plants and cutting them down with machetes. They were stacked in bundles at the location of the grow in a dense forested area. On Wednesday morning an Idaho National Guard helicopter ferried the illegal drug from the site at 7,000 feet to a clearing adjacent to Smith’s Road.
Officials unloaded basket-after-basket of marijuana into a large front-end loader, which dumped it into 10-wheel dump trucks. It was hauled to an undisclosed location for disposal.
Caribou County Sheriff Ric Anderson said an area resident on horseback stumbled onto the operation a couple of weeks ago. “The individual then contacted our office and the investigation and removal process started,” he said.
Law enforcement officials, including Franklin County sheriff-elect Dave Fryar, Anderson and Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said no suspects were at the scene when law enforcement officers first arrived. At a news conference the trio said the plants were well groomed and it was a sophisticated operation.
Officials said they believe a gang from Las Vegas, with ties to the Mexican drug cartel, is responsible. The DEA is now handling the investigation, according to Nielsen.
Fryar said the grow was discovered on July 23.
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