$25,000 reward for info on vandals damaging Covington land

COVINGTON, Wash. -- The Bonneville Power Agency is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest of vandals who damaged property in Covington. And the agency warns the problem could mean an increase in local utility rates.

Joe La Voie's rental property in Covington backs up to government property, but he says the people who use this land are trespassers and vandals.

"The word was out all over King County that this was a good place to go run your truck," La Voie said.

Trespassers are driving all-terrain vehicles across the land, cutting down trees, having campfires and leaving trash.

"Don't mind the kids over here that have the horses -- it was nice for them to be able to go out there and ride but they don't do any damage," La Voie said. "The 4-wheelers, unfortunately, tear things up."

Another concern about the trespassing here is safety. The land is the location of high voltage transmission lines operated by BPA.

BPA spokesman Doug Johnson says the illegal activity here is a safety threat to trespassers and workers who maintain these lines.

"Any time you're near a high voltage power line you're potentially in an unsafe situation," Johnson said. "If you're doing things like building fires, heavy smoke can get up close to that power line and actually cause the electricity to leave that line and arc down to the ground."

Johnson also says if trespassers cut down a tree and it falls on a power line, it can expose people to electricity and cause widespread outages.

Neighbors say the trespassing problems here started last year after a former tenant's lease expired. The tenant used the land for a horse pasture and removed the fencing when he left. The BPA has now put up new fencing and added more signs, hoping to keep people out.

Johnson says if you see anyone trespassing on this property, call 911 immediately.