Flood monitoring station vandalized

TANNER - A flow-measuring station used to help alert residents of potential flood waters on the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River has become a target for vandals.

Officials from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said last week that the group had contacted the King County Sheriff's Office about a series of incidents regarding a monitoring station near Tanner, Wash., about two miles east of North Bend. The incidents date back to April.

The setup is one of several key stations that provide real-time river data to King County's flood warning system. The station also is part of the USGS network of about 240 satellite-linked stations on Washington rivers, streams and lakes.

According to the USGS, vandals cut the wires to flow-measuring instruments, dismantled a cableway car and shot through a suspension cable in two major incidents since April. Additionally, wires linking submerged sensors to the gage's satellite transmitters were severed, and an electrical junction box had been opened with a screwdriver.

"Someone took their time disabling the equipment," said Bob Kimbrough, a USGS hydrologist. "Luckily, we weren't in any flooding conditions at the time, but vandalism like this could threaten the safety of people in the Snoqualmie River basin."

In August, it was discovered that further damage had been made to the car, which is basically a large basket attached to a cable suspended over the river. The car is used to travel out over the water to lower stream-flow measuring equipment.

"Damaged cables and cableway cars endanger the lives of USGS personnel who use them to do their work over the rivers," said Kimbrough.

Before the latest round of repairs are made, Kimbrough said the USGS is considering what security measures might be installed, including a fence or security camera.

Although many stations have seen random vandalism over the years, Kimbrough said, it is rare for such regular tampering to occur. Although the station is not located along a paved road, accessing the area is not difficult, he added. As for a reason for the vandalism, Kimbrough said the USGS "doesn't really have a clue."

The USGS estimates the costs of the damages are about $6,000.

Anyone with information regarding the vandalism is encouraged to call the King County Sheriff's Office at (206) 296-4155.

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