Aids to Navigation Vandals Run Rampant in Pacific Northwest

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The recently replaced Elk Rock Island Light 13 dayboard near Portland, Oregon after being graffitied. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard is asking for help in stopping the vandalism of aids to navigation throughout the Pacific Northwest after several incidents in the region left navigational lights either inoperable or with limited visibility.

The coast guard says that most recently the batteries were deliberately and illegally removed from a light marking a red and black dayboard on a tower at Reach Range H Rear Light and other aids near Gray’s Harbor. Previously, graffiti applied to the Elk Rock Island Light 13 near Portland, Oregon, obscured the green dayboards making them harder to see at a distance and more difficult to read in general.

“The loss of this equipment costs taxpayers and the Coast Guard in many ways: first is the obvious financial burden of replacing the damaged or stolen equipment, second is the slowing of commercial and recreational traffic and third, is the possibility of environmental damage that could result from a collision or grounding that occurs because a hazard is not marked,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michele Schallip, chief of Coast Guard 13th Waterways Management Branch.

The Coast Guard is reminding the perpetrators that those found guilty of vandalism to ATON can be fined up to $2,500 and imprisoned for up to five years and anybody witnessing vandalism to a navigational aid or finding a damaged aid to contact their nearest Coast Guard unit.

“The marine highway is the lifeblood of commerce and transportation on the West Coast and it is vitally important that these aids to navigation remain a reliable tool for mariners in the region,” said Schallip.

The Coast Guard 13th District, waterways division is responsible for maintaining and permitting aids throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington including more than 1,800 Coast Guard maintained short-range marine aids to navigation, 25 lighthouses and 1,000 bridges using three buoy tenders and four aids to navigation units.