PENDLETON - Congressman Greg Walden sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Thursday, urging a permanent DEA duty post in Pendleton.

"The nearest DEA office is located too far away to have much impact on the drug trade in Umatilla County," the letter stated. "The part-time assistance that is provided to the county by a DEA agent stationed in the Tri-Cities, Washington, is simply insufficient to stem the tide of illegal drug production and trafficking in the area."

Walden again noted the increasingly alarming proliferation of methamphetamine, marijuana and other illegal substances in Umatilla County in recent years.

He also said there was a lack of manpower and resources for local police to combat the problem.

Just two weeks ago, Walden wrote another strongly-worded letter asking for more federal help in battling drugs in Umatilla County, and detailing local drug problems.

That letter, sent to the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, requested that Umatilla County be designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which would bring local law enforcement more equipment, training and coordination with federal agencies.

Umatilla County was passed up for the most recent high drug traffic designations, even though its drug problem is more severe than four other Oregon counties that earned the designation.

In 2002, there were 20,000 marijuana plants seized in Umatilla County - more than the rest of Oregon combined.

The county also has a "staggering" number of meth labs seized, and with one per every 1,772 residents, Walden wrote.

The superintendent of the Oregon State Police, the sheriffs of Umatilla and Morrow counties, the Umatilla County District Attorney, and the chiefs of police of Pendleton and Milton-Freewater all have requested that the DEA create a field office in Pendleton, according to Walden's letter to the DEA.

Local DEA agents could work closely with BENT (Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team), Walden wrote. A DEA agent from the Tri-Cities is working with BENT part-time.

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