Twenty state and federal agencies spent at least $500,000 in a counter-terrorism drill that pretended malicious pot growers had taken over the Shasta dam in Northern California.
About 250 people from the federal Bureau of Reclamation (which oversees the dam) plus medical, fire, and police agencies planned the exercise for 18 months. Similar drills have taken place at other dams that authorities fear might be terrorist targets. The Bureau of Reclamation alone shelled out half a million in costs, and the other agencies covered their own (undisclosed) costs.
Here's Redding Record Searchlight reporter Dylan Darling's account of the 12-hour drill:
The Shasta Dam scenario began with the two mock bomb blasts followed by the "Red Cell" terrorist group taking over the dam in an effort to free one of their fellow marijuana growers from prison. Holding three people hostage, they threatened to flood the Sacramento River by rolling open the drum gates atop the dam. Those gates hold back the nearly full lake.
Thirty students who are preparing to be firefighters also pretended to be victims of the crazed pot growers' bus bomb so medics could practice responding.
One marijuana advocate was outraged that pot growers were imagined to be terrorists.
"That was so stupid," Dale Gieringer, head of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the Drug War Chronicle. "I can see the need to do better pat-downs for air travelers to make sure they're not holding joints in their underpants, but this? It sounds like something some yahoo redneck county sheriff would dream up."
(Photo of Shasta dam: AP)