BAKER CITY - A tip from mushroom pickers led police to what they say is the first major marijuana plantation they have found in the Elkhorn Mountains.
The Baker City Herald reported that police destroyed 9,000 immature marijuana plants this week gathered from the plantation after the mushroom pickers discovered it earlier this month in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
Baker County Sheriff Mitch Southwick said the immature plants were three to four inches tall. Some were in plastic cups and had yet to be planted in the ground.
Had the plants been raised to maturity, each would have yielded 1 to 2 pounds of marijuana, he said.
Based on a value of $2,000 per pound, the operation in the Elkhorns could have been worth an estimated $18 million to $36 million.
"This was a very large grow," Southwick said.
Southwick declined to say exactly where the mushroom pickers found the marijuana because he's worried people would go looking for the site.
But he said the plantation was at an elevation of about 6,000 feet, and it was not inside the Baker City watershed.
Southwick said the mushroom pickers first noticed that terraces had been dug in the steep ground about half a mile from the nearest road.
Police found no signs of booby traps, which marijuana growers sometimes place around plantations.
But they also found nobody in the area, and investigators believe whoever started the plantation left after the mushroom pickers spotted it.
In addition to the plants, police found a large amount of plastic pipe, apparently for irrigation, as well as a campsite, Southwick said.
The sheriff's office, Oregon State Police, U.S. Forest Service, the Union County sheriff's office and Baker City and La Grande police departments worked together to clear the plantation from Tuesday to Thursday.
The operation was similar to two that police raided a couple years ago near Brownlee Reservoir in eastern Baker County.