Vandals who toppled a high-voltage transmission tower two days before New Year's Day are still at large. Meanwhile, Northwest ratepayers will foot the bill for the incident unless the vandals are caught. The incident has cost the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) approximately USdollars126,000.

BPA is offering a reward of up to USdollars10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals. No one lost power during the incident, but it did give the Northwest the distinction of being the only transmission grid in the nation that had a major incident during the year 2000 rollover.

The incident occurred near a point where BPA's transmission line crosses U.S. Highway 20, approximately 37 miles (60 km) southeast of Bend, Oregon, U.S., and 14 miles (23 km) northeast of Brothers, Oregon. The Deschutes County Sheriff, Oregon State Patrol and Federal Bureau of Investigation all are involved in the investigation.

"The power system operated as it's designed to operate during an incident like this," says Mike Berg, BPA security specialist. "Still, the ratepayers didn't get away from this incident without a cost. Each and every Northwest ratepayer is on the hook for the cost to fix that tower and put the line back in service."

BPA estimates the total cost of the incident to be nearly USdollars125,200, which includes nearly USdollars92,400 in foregone revenue and USdollars32,000 for tower and line repairs. Although ratepayers will not see their power bills increase because of this incident, Berg says they shouldn't rest easy.

"This is the reason why information on who did this is important," Berg says. "If we can apprehend these individuals and convict them, they wind up paying the bill instead of the ratepayers."

If anyone has information about this incident, call the Crime Witness Hot Line at 1-800-437-2744. An award of up to USdollars10,000 still stands.