Two western Washington men were arrested June 18, charged with cutting up and stealing copper cables at Grand Coulee Dam.
The two, Victor W. Ford, 43, of Lake Stevens, and Michael R. Bruce, 47, of Everett, were observed by Bureau of Reclamation plant protection cameras and later arrested by Grand Coulee police at 2 p.m. between the top of the dam and the pullout viewing area at Riley Point.
A large copper cable had been cut and dragged up to the sidewalk in plain view of people pulling over at Riley Point to view the dam.
When confronted, Ford said that he was on his way to the casino to get his girlfriend. But when officers checked on him, they found that his driver license was suspended, and plant protection confirmed that this was the van involved in the incident.
Replacement cost of the cable, including labor, was first estimated at $15,000 to $20,000. Later this figure was raised to more than $50,000.
The two were arrested by Grand Coulee police with Coulee Dam Police Chief Pat Collins assisting.
Charges include first-degree malicious mischief, first-degree theft and first-degree possession of stolen property. The two were later taken to Grant County Jail.
Confiscated in addition to the van were multiple lengths of braided copper wire and three sets of cutting tools.
Ford told officers that the van wasn’t his and he didn’t know the wire was inside. He said the van belonged to “Fisherman Mike.”
Later Bruce (Fisherman Mike) turned up and was detained. Two witnesses out for a walk identified Bruce as the one who had been throwing lengths of the heavy copper wire up on the sidewalk.
A Bureau of Reclamation employee, Robert Oberg, told police that the copper cable was ground wire from the facility’s grounding mat. He said that the cable was used to ground all the metal items in the area of the power office, including the fence and handrail around the sidewalk, to keep the metal objects from being energized.
Recycling prices for bare copper wire are around $3 a pound.