Officials seize more than 31,500 marijuana plants

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DAYTON - Seizure of marijuana plants on two consecutive days in two different locations resulted in two arrests and removal of approximately 31,565 marijuana plants.

Thursday's harvest of 25,765 plants from the Eckler Mountain area is the largest grow seizure so far this year in Washington, according to Columbia County Sheriff's Office officials.

Columbia County narcotics deputy Jeff Jenkins said the estimated street value of the plants from Eckler Mountain is about $25.7 million.

Two armed men were arrested and taken into custody Wednesday in a canyon about two miles off the top of Hartsock grade. The 2,300 plants eradicated have a street value of about $2.3 million.

Members of the Washington State Reconnaissance Arrest Team (RAT), a division of the state's Cannabis Eradication Response Team (CERT) made the Hartsock arrests.

Jose Miraz-Farias, 42, and Martin Chipres-Madriz, 43, were arrested for investigation of being alien in possession of a firearm and manufacturing marijuana. Both men were carrying loaded handguns when they were arrested, according to probably cause papers filed Thursday.

They were formally charged in Columbia County Superior Court on Friday and are being held on $150,000 bail. Miraz-Farias is being held in Garfield County Jail, and Chipres-Madriz is in the Columbia County Jail. Their permanent addresses were not known.

Also being held in Columbia County Jail on the same charges and same bail is Santiago Orozco, 41, from the Tri-Cities. He was arrested in July in the upper Tucannon River watershed where approximately 2,000 marijuana plants were seized.

A third marijuana grow with about 6,800 plants and a street value of $6.8 million was located and eradicated July 26 in the Robinette Mountain area of Columbia County. No arrests were made.

Jenkins said Saturday members of the public should be alert when in the forests. Not all of the recent seizures took place on public land, he said.

If anyone sees something that seems suspicious or out of place, they should report it to the sheriff's office, Jenkins said.

He urged caution when people are in the woods.

"This will be more dangerous," he predicted. "We're seeing more of this and it's going to get worse."

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