Reward offered for information on insulator shooting
February incident prompts recent decision to offer rewardLast week, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) officials offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone who purposefully damaged a key component for transferring electricity.
In late February, with malicious intent or accidental aim, gunfire destroyed an insulator on a major power line, prompting the reward of up to $25,000.
"Those insulators are what keep the power in the lines from not coming down the tower," BPA Spokesman Doug Johnson said. "Power is always looking for a path to the ground and it would like nothing more than to use that tower as a path to the ground. If those insulators become damaged enough or fail, all of a sudden, that tower is energized. If you're touching or near one of those structures that holds power lines up, you're certainly in danger of shock, and depending on the amount of electricity coming out of those lines, potentially, you could be killed."
The danger of being around a failed insulator can be possibly fatal for those in the vicinity of the tower.
"The person out there shooting is in danger. Somebody who comes along after that person is also in danger," Johnson continued. "Then, it's always dangerous to repair these things. Our folks use tons of safety equipment and have very good safety procedures, but still anytime you're working with damage like this, it's a danger for everybody involved."
Although this is the first time in recent history BPA has dealt with power line damage in the Prineville area, it is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in rural communities.
"We've got 15,000 circuit miles of line that runs across four different states up here in the Northwest," Johnson said. "It's not uncommon in rural areas for the actual power lines or insulators to be shot out. Sometimes accidentally, but unfortunately sometimes people decide they're going to use them for target practice."
With routine damage to the lines and insulators, BPA created a crime witness program to promote vigilantism.
"The damage to the insulator in this particular incident was about $3,000. When you take into account all the soft costs - labor and the time that the line was out - it's well above that. That's why we offer rewards, up to $25,000, through our crime witness program," Johnson said. "We calculate it depending on the value of the information, the amount of damage that was involved and what our costs were. Also, if there is a prosecution and then a subsequent conviction. All of those factors play a role in the amount that we determine the reward will total."
The insulator that was damaged was attached to a 230-kilovolt power line near Prineville. If you have information regarding the incident, call Bonneville Power Administration's Crime Witness hotline at 1-800-437-2744. BPA is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information in the case.