UPDATED Friday, August 31, 2012 at 1:39 p.m. CDT
Four marijuana patches in all were located.
Throughout the night, law enforcement personnel from Cherokee County and DPS Narcotics continued removing plants in the biggest patch. By daylight, that location had been cleared, with a count of 7,500 plants.
The three remaining patches were cleared throughout the morning hours, and Investigators left the area with two 16-foot trailers and a pickup truck loaded with all the plants. They were brought to an undisclosed location where the plants were incinerated.
The total number of plants recovered from the 4 patches was 18,288.
Texas DPS Narcotics estimates the value of a plant at roughly $1,000. That brings the total street value to $18,288,000 (over 18 Million Dollars).
As for the investigation, camping and irrigation equipment was seized, as were the firearms, ammunition and other items of potential evidentiary value.
Because of the nature of this type of investigation, locating who is responsible for the grow operation is difficult. Investigators will make contact with the landowners to make them aware of what was found, and continue following any leads that may develop. No arrests have been made at this time.
There are no in-roads to the location. A high line power line is 1/4 mile to the west of the location. The Angelina River is directly to the east.
Here is the text of the release:
On Thursday, August 30, 2012 Cherokee County Investigators met with Texas DPS narcotics officers, DEA agents and Texas National Guard personnel for routine DME flights over Cherokee County.
The mission of the Domestic Marijuana Eradication (DME) Program is to coordinate and support all law enforcement efforts in the state of Texas related to the eradication of domestically grown marijuana.
Throughout the morning hours and into the early afternoon, a DPS helicopter and crew out of Longview, and a Texas National Guard helicopter and crew out of Austin flew reconnaissance looking for possible patches of marijuana growing in heavily wooded areas, and other locations not easily accessible or visible from the ground. County Investigators and DPS Narcotics Officers on the ground responded to areas indicated by the personnel in the helicopters.
At approximately 2:45pm, the crew on board the DPS helicopter located a possible site near the banks of the Angelina River approximately 1.5 miles south of FM-343, which is on the Eastern boarder of the County.
The ground crews were notified and discovered a very large marijuana grow operation spanning several patches. The marijuana plants ranged in size from 12 inches to 8 feet in height. The site was set up with an irrigation system from generators and water pumps from the river, and fully equipped camping sites for the workers to live on site and cultivate the marijuana.
Although no one was caught on the property when the ground crews arrived, indications were that there were workers present at the time the helicopter located the first patch and the time the ground crews arrived.
Firearms and ammunition were also found stashed in various locations around the patches and camp site.
As of this morning at 7:30am, only the first of 4 patches had been removed by Investigators, yielding over 7,500 plants. Unless more patches are located throughout the day, this grow operation is expected to be a total count of 15,000 to 20,000 plants.
More details will be available after the operation is completed.