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Local News

Some 7,000 Pot Plants Found in Hills Above Montecito

Narcotics investigators eradicate two growing areas in Romero Canyon

A Santa Barbara County helicopter ferries a load of eradicated marijuana to a waiting truck in Romero Canyon above Montecito on Friday. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

Authorities were searching for at least two suspects Friday after raiding an illegal marijuana grove on national forest land in the foothills above Montecito, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

Narcotics investigators converged on the growing site in the Romero Canyon area early Friday, department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

“When deputies arrived early this morning, one suspect was observed and a second suspect was heard in the area,” Hoover said. “The suspects fled from authorities. The suspect who was observed did not have a weapon, but it is unknown whether the other suspect was armed.”

A search of the area, with the aid of a county helicopter, did not turn up the suspects, Hoover said.

Friday’s raid comes on the heels of a similar operation Tuesday at a nearby location in Los Padres National Forest, she said.

Between the two areas, some 7,000 marijuana plants were eradicated, Hoover said.

In addition to the marijuana, a significant amount of trash and irrigation drip line was removed to rehabilitate the environment in and around the illegal marijuana grove, Hoover said. The trash included food, rat poison, a car battery, propane tanks, clothing and an extensive amount of drip line.

“These illegal marijuana groves have a significant impact on the environment,” Hoover said. “The individuals responsible are not only cutting down the native vegetation but they are bringing in toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment and wildlife.”

Officials warned the public that if they see any suspicious activity or individuals associated with these illegal operations, to leave the area, avoid contact and alert authorities immediately.

The suspects involved in marijuana growing operations are often armed and potentially dangerous, Hoover said.

Assisting the Sheriff’s Department in the raids were personnel from the U.S. Forest Service and the California National Guard.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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