FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Authorities have torn out an illegal marijuana operation in Central California that they say was siphoning water from streams that supply an American Indian tribe, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman said Friday.
The growers created seven reservoirs — some capable of storing 5,000 gallons — that relied on water from the Tule River Tribe, Lt. Patrick Foy said. The tribe's reservation is in the Sierra Nevada foothills 70 miles northeast of Bakersfield.
No arrests were made in the five-day operation, but Foy said officials cleared out nearly 14,000 plants, 10 miles of plastic irrigation pipes and 12,000 pounds of trash, including propane tanks and car batteries.
Foy said he had never seen a more efficiently set up illegal marijuana operation. "They had every spring, every drop of water dammed up and diverted to the plants," he said.
Members of the tribe had discovered the illegal grow that threatened a source that supplied 80 percent of the reservation's water. They reported it to state officials.
More than a dozen growers had been at work in the remote area, said Foy, but they vanished once the raid began. He said the workers had poached wildlife and polluted the land and water with fertilizers, pesticides and human waste, destroying wildlife habitat.
"We will continue our efforts in protecting our sacred lands and restoring the water for future generations," said William J. Garfield, a tribe spokesman.