Members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force on Monday raided a marijuana growing operation on private property near Bowman Lake that reportedly was being run by a Mexican drug cartel.
The 7 a.m. raid netted approximately 3,000 plants — but the growers who had been onsite had fled, leaving behind a campsite littered with debris and substantial environmental degradation to the land and a creek that runs through the area.
The grow off Hoosier Road, below Bowman on the north side of the Bowman-Spaulding conduit, was discovered during aerial surveillance, said Sgt. Guy Selleck.
“It appeared to be a Hispanic drug-trafficking organization grow, very similar to many we’ve seen over the years,” Selleck said, adding that Catholic prayer candles and images of Santa Muerte — a religious skeletal figure also associated with drug traffickers and increasingly popular in Mexico and among Mexican immigrants in the United States — were found at the campsite.
Deputies served the search warrant with the help of U.S. Forest Service and California Highway Patrol officers, Selleck said. They reportedly found marijuana plants in various stages of growth, ranging in size from 1 foot to 3 feet, just beginning to flower.
“When we arrived, we found a tent with three sleeping bags,” Selleck said. “There was a lit candle, but no one was located.”
Selleck said the grow, which was on very steep terrain with thick undergrowth, had been terraced with drip irrigation running to every plant.
The plants were being watered by a gravity-fed system that involved two reservoirs diverting water from a stream and that had fertilizer dumped into them. Deputies located a number of empty fertilizer and rat poison containers near the water, a concern because the chemicals could drain back into the creek and contaminate the water source, Selleck said.
The Bowman-Spaulding canal is the major source of water for the county; NID water flows through the canal, via Fuller Lake, to Lake Spaulding. It is then routed down either the South Yuba Canal to Upper Deer Creek, Scotts Flat and the Nevada City-Grass Valley area or down the PG&E Drum System along the Bear River where the water is used to generate power for NID and PG&E before supplying NID customers in southern Nevada County and Placer County.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.