Earlier last week, Bonneville Power Administration workers discovered thieves had broken into its Walton and Dorena substations in Lane County and stolen copper wire. BPA and law enforcement officials are investigating, and BPA is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

The first theft was discovered early July 26 at the Walton substation on Transformer Road near Milepost 32 on Highway 126W in Walton, Oregon. The perpetrators cut a hole on the south side of the perimeter fence and stole 20 feet of copper wire from a steel frame. The damage is estimated at $3,000.

Later that morning, a BPA line crew discovered evidence of another burglary and theft at the Dorena substation on the corner of Row River Road and Garoutte Road in Cottage Grove, Ore. Perpetrators cut a hole in the southwest corner of the fence, damaged equipment and stole approximately 30 feet of copper ground wire. Lane County Electric Coop owns the property at the Dorena substation. Damage and repair costs are estimated at $3,500 to $4,000.

“Thieves are endangering their lives and the safety of our employees,” said Kevin West, BPA physical security specialist. “The culprits are not only damaging the electrical infrastructure that keeps our lights on, but they’re also forcing electric ratepayers to cover the costs of this kind of senseless damage and theft.”

Through its Crime Witness Program, BPA offers up to $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of individuals committing crimes against BPA facilities and infrastructure. The Lane County Sheriff’s office is working with BPA on both cases.
In 2010, BPA made two $300 awards to individuals who provided tips on thefts BPA experienced in southwest Washington. Since 2006, BPA has paid 12 rewards totaling almost $14,000.

“We’re hoping that this information will help jog the memory of someone who may know about the break in and theft or may have seen something suspicious at the substation,” said West. “Sometimes even small details can help law enforcement officials make significant investigative progress.”

These are the second and third incidents in less than a month. Earlier this month, thieves broke into BPA’s South Tacoma substation in Tacoma, Wash., and stole copper wire.

Photos of the damage are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonnevillepower/sets/72157627303501382/