MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO)-- A marijuana grow, just a stone’s throw off of I-70 was discovered in De Beque Canyon.
The plants, just short of 9,000 of them were growing on an island, dense in brush.
We talked with the Drug Enforcement Agency's Group Supervisor, Steve Knight about the operation, one he says took significant collaboration with several area agencies to carry out.
Knight describes it all starting more than a year ago when a BLM ranger and Deputy with the Mesa County Sheriff's Office recalling an arrest by a Colorado State Patrol trooper. The trooper had arrested someone trying to get on the island, just off I-70. When he was arrested he had seeds in his pocket. Seeds that would grow pot plants.
That sparked the ranger and deputy to return to the area and view the island from the top of the cliffs. As they looked down on the island they saw items that should not be there, equipment and other items that didn't belong on an otherwise abandoned and uninhabited island along the Colorado River.
So they watched.
They watched for months. The operation, according to Knight has been going on since May.
When they started to see signs that the men involved in the operation may have started to harvest the plants, they moved in. 18 agents, a K9 unit and air support went in just before dawn Thursday morning.
It was a joint operation with agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI, US Marshall, Mesa County Sheriff's Office and Joint Drug Task Force.
Two men were arrested on drug trafficking charges. The two men told the agents they were from Sinaola, Mexico. They've yet to be identified pending their first appearance in court Friday afternoon. A third man, believed to also be part of the operation was hiding in dense brush and could not be found or arrested.
Because the plants hadn't fully developed, the agency said it was difficult to put a dollar amount on the value of the grow - but said if the plants were able to fully grow, the value of the plants could have reached into the millions of dollars.
According to our sister station KUSA, it was right in plain sight, for months.
More than 9,000 pot plants have been growing on a pair of islands in the middle of the Colorado River.
The grow ended Thursday when the DEA and other local agencies shut it all down.
The DEA says the illegal marijuana grow has ties to Mexico.
DEA agents along with state and local law enforcement arrived by boat, airplane and helicopter Thursday morning.
Investigators also found a campsite, which the DEA says three people were using.
The spokesman said those three people were sent to tend to the plants, by someone in Sinaola, Mexico.
They’re believed to be low on the totem pole of a larger criminal organization.
The DEA wouldn't say what organization that may be - because of the investigation.
Two people were arrested - a third got away and still hasn't been found.
The DEA didn't give their names tonight because they haven't been officially charged yet.
They also didn't put a number on how much this pot is worth, but did say someone was expecting to make a lot of money off of it.