Customers ordered to pay for $100,000 in damages after King County power lines and equipment ‘sabotaged’

King County’s power lines and equipment were “sabotaged” in two attacks within a span of months, said officials with a local power company, which is now making customers pay for $100,000 in damage.


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

This was the second attack on the company’s equipment, which was located a few blocks away from the first incident, within months, he added.

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

“It’s interesting that they were so close together and again four months apart,” he said.

Last December, a utility pole was cut in half and Johnson shared photos of the damage.

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

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

“These targeted attacks on equipment deprive line workers and other personnel of jobs and taxpayer dollars,” said Covington District Manager Stefan Schildt. “We hope that 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 everyone who pays PUDs, municipal electric utilities or rural electric cooperatives in the Puget Sound Energy,” he said. “We have had to release staff from tasks. That cost money. These incidents have cost us approximately $100,000 to repair and we have to get that money from somewhere, and unfortunately it will come from our taxpayers.”

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

“Anyone served by a public utility, municipal electric utility or rural electric cooperative in the Puget Sound area will be affected by the costs,” Johnson said.

Johnson said details of the increase have not yet been shared with customers.

“No, all of these costs are part of a process where we are working with utilities like Tacoma Power, the City of Steilacoom, Seattle City Light, just to name a few that are located in the Puget Sound area. They know from their own systems that every time you experience vandalism or sabotage, these are costs that will put upward pressure on rates for you. We would like to avoid that, and I think the best way to do that is to bring these people who committed these acts to justice,” he said.

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

A spokesperson said they had no details on a possible suspect or if the two cases were linked.

Johnson told KIRO 7 News these are ongoing issues affecting many energy companies in the United States.

We asked him what the company plans to do to prevent vandals from damaging their equipment and towers and prevent future rate increases.

He said additional security measures were taken after a major attack on an Oregon substation in 2022, but he could not release the details.

“If you see something, say something. If you see someone near a substation or a power line, it looks like he/she shouldn’t be there. If you are not wearing a helmet or vest or some type of clothing that identifies you, you should probably report it to local law enforcement,” he shared.


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

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

Inthapandith said he understands the company may increase the price of his bill; However, he believes that families should not be responsible for the bad decisions made by criminals.

“I feel sorry for people who do this to the public. That belongs to everyone,” he said.

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

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

The vandalism not only caused property damage, Hager said, it also damaged lives.

“No more money comes out of my pocket. Man, I’m pretty much on a fixed income. I work in retail at Safeway. Rates are going up on everything. It just puts you in a more difficult position,” he said.