Vandalism of Navigation Aids costs taxpayers $117,000

SEATTLE — The Coast Guard is asking for the public’s help to put a stop to the vandalism of Aids to Navigation ATON throughout Washington and Oregon.

Vandalism to ATON has cost taxpayers and the Coast Guard more than $117,000 since 2005. Navigational aids along the Columbia River between Astoria, Ore., and Kennewick, Wash., have been the target of more than 30 counts of vandalism during that time.

“We’ve had problems with people shooting at the aids and using their vehicles to inflict damage to the land-based aids,” said Timothy Westcott, an Aids to Navigation manager for the Coast Guard. “People don’t realize vandalizing an ATON is like vandalizing a stop sign. If you remove a stop sign, people could be injured. Damaging an ATON can have the same effect possibly resulting in serious injuries, loss of life or catastrophic damage to the environment.”

Those found guilty of vandalism to ATON can be fined up $2500 and imprisoned for up to five years. Anybody witnessing vandalism to a navigational aid or finding a damaged aid should contact the nearest Coast Guard unit.

“The loss of an ATON affects everybody using a waterway,” said Westcott. “Not only does it affect the unit responsible for servicing the ATON, it can affect a search and rescue unit who might need that aid to help them find an endangered vessel. Worse yet, is the possibility the Coast Guard will have to respond to a case that could have been prevented if that aid were functioning.”

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