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$100-million pot farm destroyed in Topanga State Park raid

$100-million pot farm destroyed in Topanga State Park raid

Authorities have uncovered a 34,000-plant marijuana farm in Topanga State Park -- the largest such operation found in the Santa Monica Mountains in seven years.

Law enforcement officials raided the site Friday after park rangers found a plastic-lined earthen dam diverting water from a Topanga Creek tributary to a marijuana cultivation site deep in the park’s backcountry, said Craig Sap, Angeles District Supt. for California State Parks.

Officials destroyed an estimated $100-million worth of marijuana, mostly young plants about 1 to 2 feet tall. The raid was carried out by a team of state park rangers, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and officials with the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority.

No arrests were made, Sap said, though three men were seen fleeing the scene.

Authorities also removed more than 500 pounds of trash and supplies left behind by pot farmers, including propane tanks, decaying batteries, fertilizer and pesticides that are banned in California. They said they also found hunting traps and a dead fox.

The growing operation was divided into 13 plots distributed throughout the steep chaparral, Sap said. It caused extensive damage to the soil, watershed, native plants and animals. It could take years for the environment to recover, he said.

“It takes so much effort to catch these guys,” Sap said. “The goal really is to get rid of the drugs and restore the site.”

More pot-growing sites have been cropping up in the Santa Monica Mountains in the last few years as increased enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border has made smuggling more risky, Sap said.

In 2009 authorities discovered a marijuana-growing operation 25 feet behind the Los Angeles Police Department's Topanga Station.

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--Tony Barboza

Photo: A marijuana farming operation in 2010. Credit: Los Angeles Times

 
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