Wire thefts reported at dam site

Materials stolen on back-to-back nights; Project behind schedule

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POST FALLS - Copper thieves struck Avista Utilities' Post Falls Dam construction site twice in as many nights, according to police and the utility.

The first alleged theft at the dam next to Q'emiln Park occurred between Sunday night and Monday morning, when an estimated $1,700 worth of materials - including copper wire and oxygen gauges - were stolen.

The site, which has a gate around it, was struck again Monday night or Tuesday morning, and an undisclosed amount of materials was stolen.

Debbie Simock, Avista spokeswoman, said approximately 65 feet of copper wire was stolen between the two incidents.

"The South Channel Dam site is already under 24-hour video surveillance with signs posted to alert the public," Simock said, adding that additional patrols through the area are expected.

Simock said the surveillance not only protects the site, but trespassers as well.

"The site is very dangerous," she said, adding that the rugged terrain along the Spokane River, construction equipment and the partially-completed dam restoration only add to such conditions.

Surveillance of the first incident showed multiple suspects with flashlights entering the gated work area through the boat launch area of Q'emiln Park around 2 a.m. Monday, according to a police report.

A photo from a long distance of one of the second incident showed a male suspect wearing a white T-shirt over a black long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans, dark shoes and a hat.

Simock said the wiring that was stolen was loose and not attached to equipment. She said it was owned by one of the contractors working at the site.

Simock said nothing had been stolen from the site prior to these incidents, but there was some vandalism when the fence around the site was cut.

"It is important that the public know the fence is there for their protection and to secure the site," she said.

Simock said metal thefts appear to have lessened in recent months, but they could start to increase as the weather warms. The price for copper is around $2.55 per pound.

"Summertime is when theft seems to be more of an issue," she said.

Simock said the dam construction project is two months behind schedule because of unexpected issues working on a structure more than 100 years old.

"It is now expected that the temporary cofferdam will be removed in April and the project wrapped up in May," she said. "The demolition phase was completed in November and the rebuilding phase is underway, with crews now pouring concrete to rebuild the structure."

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