Customers to pay for $100k damage after King County power lines, equipment were ‘sabotaged’

NEAR RENTON, Wash. — King County power lines and equipment were “sabotaged” in two attacks, in a span of months, officials for a local power utility company said, which is now leaving customers to pay for the $100,000 damage.


On April 6, a vandal cut fiber lines near transmission towers in Renton, which are used for communication within the transmission system, said Doug Johnson, senior spokesperson for Bonneville Power Administration.

This was the second attack on the company’s equipment, which took place a few blocks away from the first incident, in a matter of months, he added.

The damaged equipment and poles were near SE 168th Street and 186th Avenue SE.

“It is interesting they were so near one another and again four months apart,” he said.

Last December, a power line pole was cut clean in half, Johnson shared photos of the damage.

“This was a deliberate attack, Johnson said. “Both acts deliberately done in what we believe was an effort to disrupt power.”

Johnson told KIRO 7 News that he does not believe the suspect(s) was looking to steal any equipment, including copper wire.

“These deliberate attacks on equipment take line workers and other personnel off tasks and ratepayers’ money,” said Covington district manager Stefan Schildt. “We are hoping anyone with information about who may have caused this damage will come forward and help bring that person or persons to justice.”

Families did not lose power in either incident, but many will feel the burden.

“This hits the pocketbooks of anybody that pays PUDs, municipal electric utilities, or rural electric co-op in the Puget Sound Energy,” he said. “We had to take staff off tasks. That cost money. These incidents cost us about $100,000 to repair and we have to recover those funds from somewhere and unfortunately, it’s going to be from our rate payers.”

Many customers will see their monthly bills increase in order to cover the total damage.

“Anybody who is served by a public utility district, municipal electric utility or a rural electric co-op in the Puget Sound area is affected by the costs,” Johnson shared.

Johnson said details on the increase have not been shared to customers yet.

“No, all of these costs go in a process that we work with utilities like Tacoma Power, the Town of Steilacoom, Seattle City Light, just to name a few that are up there in the Puget Sound area. They know from operating their own systems that any time you experience vandalism or sabotage, those are costs that are going to present upward rate pressure for you. We’d like to avoid those, and I think the best way to do that is to bring these folks to justice who committed these acts,” he said.

KIRO 7 News reached out to the King County Sheriff’s Office to learn more about both incidents.

A spokesperson said they did not have details on a possible suspect or if both cases were connected.

Johnson told KIRO 7 News these are ongoing issues that are affecting many power utility companies across the United States.

We asked him what the company plans to do to deter vandals from damaging their equipment and poles to prevent future rate hikes.

He said additional security measures have been put in place after a major attack on a substation in Oregon in 2022, however, he could not disclose the details.

“If you see something, say something. If you see someone near a substation or a power line that doesn’t look like they should be there. Isn’t wearing a hard hat or a vest or some sort of utility identifying clothing, you should probably report it to local law enforcement officials,” he shared.


KIRO 7 News spoke with neighbors in the area about the vandalism and the BPA’s plans to increase customers’ bills.

“I don’t like it all to pay more for the criminals. That’s really bad,” said Anthony Inthapandith, a neighbor. “That’s a lot of money.”

Inthapandith said he understands the company can raise the price of his bill; however, he believes families should not be responsible for criminals’ poor decisions.

“I feel bad about people who do that to the public. That belongs to everybody,” he shared.

“Everything is now so expensive now, food, gas everything is going up,” he added. “That’s really bad for me personally.”

Alex Hager, another neighbor, said, “That’s devastating. That’s a full pole they cut down with a chainsaw. That’s not some simple vandalism.”

The vandalism did not just damage property, Hager said, it’s also hurting lives.

“I don’t have any more money coming out of my pocket. Man, I’m on a fixed income pretty much. I work retail at Safeway. Rates going up on everything. It just puts you in a harder place,” he shared.

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