On Monday, Aug. 15, at 7 a.m., a convoy of trucks, trailers, and Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles, mobilized in the turnout between the Cal Fire Station and Valley Oak Credit Union in Three Rivers. After a short briefing, the procession of law enforcement vehicles turned up Sierra Drive and headed for the foothills on BLM land near the Sequoia National Park boundary.
The Sheriff’s Tactical Enforcement Personnel (STEP) unit spent the next three days raiding pot grow sites off Mineral King Road, near the South Fork of the Kaweah River, and in the Badger area. After three days of work, the eradication tally was 10,000 plants pulled from a Mineral King site, 18,000 plants from the South Fork grow site, and 27,000 plants destroyed from multiple sites in Badger.
Had the plants been processed and sold on the illicit market the cash haul could have exceeded $10 million.
One member of the team that participated in the raids said the season has just begun and there are lots more plants where these came from, some growing nearby and sharing the same water sources.
No arrests were made during the raids but the investigation is ongoing.
Acting on information developed during an ongoing investigation of illegal grow sites on local federal lands, on Friday, Aug. 12, sheriff’s deputies pulled over a suspicious vehicle near the Three Rivers Arts Center. During the North Fork Drive stop, the driver, identified as Jose Jacobo, 21, of Visalia was found to have two outstanding warrants and was driving without a driver’s license.
Jacobo was arrested at the scene without incident and later transported to the county Adult Pre-Trial Facility in north Visalia where he was booked and jailed. After an identification check, a passenger was released, but the vehicle was towed from the scene.
This incident is still under investigation.