51°F
weather icon Clear

Copper wire thefts cutting power, costing electric company big money

The theft of copper wire from utility lines has cost Valley Electric Association and their members approximately $100,000, officials announced at a regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday.

Those thefts, association officials said, are also directly related to two power outages on the 138-line over the past couple of months. Two incidents were identified by Valley Electric personnel of energized lines that had been pulled directly off utility poles.

One of those broken lines, Line Superintendent Marty Lytle said, had 80 amps running through it. Rain and moisture caused that line to short, he said.

To minimize theft and prevent injury risk to association personnel and other unsuspecting individuals or animals of exposed live wires, Valley Electric has been systematically replacing the copper wire with copper-plated steel cord. The replacement cord, according to Lytle, has no real value.

“It’s like a heavy-duty barbed wire,” he said.

The replacement material did not initially deter thieves, Lytle said. Following installation of the new material, approximately two miles of line were torn down between Lathrop and Valley Switch. The vandals must have realized the material was not the copper wire they were after, according to Lytle, so they simply cut and left it.

Those torn down, or cut, “ungrounded” wires present a risk for severe injury to people or animals as well as disruption in service to customer homes and businesses, Lytle said.

Countless man hours, as well as new materials, have been invested in the replacement project. Company officials said that more than 15 miles of line have been replaced with the new material, so far this year. Signage has also been installed, they said, indicating that copper is no longer used in the utility wires, as part of the proactive approach to prevent further vandalism and theft.

Officials said that the Beatty community has been largely unaffected. However, Pahrump, Sandy Valley and Amargosa have been targeted.

Valley Electric District 2 Director Shiela Rau said that when the lines are vandalized, the criminals are stealing from each and every member. “It’s a personal loss to each of us,” she said. She encourages the public to report any signs that indicate vandalism or theft to law enforcement or the association office.

Valley Electric officials said that employees are not the only personnel who work on the utility lines. Occasionally, contractors work on poles, towers and rights of way. All association employees or contractors will be outfitted with safety gear, including work uniforms. Legitimate workers will also be using industrial vehicles such as bucket trucks and cranes. They will not be wearing obvious non-work clothing such as shorts, tank-tops or skirts, officials said.

Valley Electric also encourages the public to report any loose or hanging wires, as well as any other utility equipment that appears damaged or out of place.

Nye County Sheriff Tony Demeo reported that only one arrest relating to copper wire theft has been made in the past several months. On Oct. 29, an arrest was made in the Stewart Valley area. The suspect, DeMeo said, was charged with grand larceny and possession of stolen property.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Nevada Highway Patrol receives $100k public safety grant

By putting in additional efforts to combat drunk and distracted drivers along Silver State roadways, the Nevada Department of Public Safety, Highway Patrol Division has received a grant in the amount of $100,000 from the Nevada Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety for targeted DUI enforcement campaigns during the coming year.

Fire restrictions lifted at Humboldt-Toiyabe

The ban and other restrictions, which previously applied only to federal lands such as the Humbldt-Toiyabe National Forest, have been expanded to all public lands in Nevada.

FDA pushes for reduction in salt in packaged foods, restaurants

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released guidance on Wednesday in an effort to reduce the amount of salt in food products at restaurants, school cafeterias and packaged and prepared foods. Food makers, however, are not obligated to take action in the voluntary guidance.

Social Security benefits to rise 5.9% in 2022

The Social Security Administration announced a cost-of-living raise of 5.9% starting in 2022, the largest annual increase in 40 years. The rise, however, comes in the face of other increases in food, shelter and other goods.

Solar project discussion riles Pahrump citizens

The Pahrump Public Lands Advisory Committee had what may very well have been the biggest turnout the advisory body has ever seen before during its Tuesday, Oct. 12 meeting.

Pumpkin Days returns to Pahrump next weekend

Fall is in the air and for the town of Pahrump, that means it’s almost time for Pumpkin Days.

Adam Laxalt stumps in Pahrump

U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt made a stop in the valley last week, spending some time at local eatery Mom’s Diner to speak with area residents as he ramps up his campaign for the 2022 election.

Pahrump local’s Kids Costume Car Wash a success

Pahrump resident Shauna “Shay” Dragna and her three youngsters, Cayleigh, Caden and Conner, have spent the last month focusing on their very first public philanthropy project and though they entered into the endeavor without any previous experience and absolutely no idea how it might turn out, the results of their efforts are bearing some very positive fruit.

 
Cegavske won’t allow tax petitions off 2022 ballot

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has told Attorney General Aaron Ford in a letter the state constitution doesn’t allow for petitions to be withdrawn.