Cops Pursue Long-Haired Potential Transmission Toppler

By Published On: December 13, 2003

In the country outlying massive Lake Shasta, near Redding, a chubby, graying, long-haired man was allegedly spied removing bolts from a transmission tower October 20 and chased by three citizens at high speed down Interstate 5. The 115 kV line moves electrons from Lake Shasta Dam (629 MW) and Keswick (117 MW) for the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA). ?He disappeared into the wind someplace,? said Neil J. Purcell, police chief in the nearby town of Anderson. The suspect had not been apprehended at press time, and the case has been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation because WAPA lines are federally owned, said Purcell. Someone ?who appears to be the same suspect or close to the same suspect? was found taking bolts off the base of a transmission tower three hours earlier near Klamath, Oregon, Purcell added. ?This smacks of domestic terrorism, or overtones of eco-activist groups. We can be somewhat complacent in a small area like this, but as time goes by we?ll see more of this type of activity. It?s little things like this that unnerve the American people,? Purcell claimed. The mystery man?s attempt is reminiscent of Edward Abbey?s novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” in which a long-haired Vietnam vet named George Hayduke with a peculiar interest in explosives destroys numerous transmission lines around Glen Canyon Dam to protest blocking the Grand Canyon. Unlike Purcell, WAPA appeared to take the incident in stride. ?Every transmission owner has to maintain its own grid, whether it?s hunters who?ve had too much to drink shooting out the insulators, or replacing bolts? removed by a potential transmission toppler?s wrench, said LaVerne Kyriss, WAPA spokesperson. WAPA is more concerned with whether to start its own transmission control area separate from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). If a transmission tower were to go down, Kyriss said, having a separate control area might not make a difference, depending on the circumstances. ?I?m not going to say we could handle it better? than CAISO. ?It may not be easier for a control center that has 10,000 miles of line than one that has 2,000 miles of line.? A single tower may not have all that much impact on the grid, but CAISO has its security people working on the case along with the other police agencies, according to CAISO spokesperson Gregg Fishman.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now