GRAND RIVERS, KY (KFVS) - The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is prepared to seek felony charges for the theft of navigational light wiring on the KY 453 Canal Bridge at Grand Rivers.
KYTC engineers say damage to the bridge lighting system could be up to $50,000.
Last year, KYTC workers discovered about 25 feet of electrical wiring that supplied power to navigation lights on the structure had been stolen.
It was immediately reported to the U.S. Coast Guard and the wiring was repaired.
Investigators believe the most recent theft occurred in February. At the end of February, technicians making regular rounds discovered all the wire was stolen and the conduit and junction boxes required for the navigation lights to operate were destroyed, according to KYTC.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Jim LeFevre asks anyone with information to contact the Lyon County Sheriff's Office, Kentucky State Police, or the U.S. Coast Guard.
LeFevre says this is an ongoing problem for KYTC.
"As often as not, the amount of damage caused by the thieves far surpasses the amount of money they can hope to get from a scrap dealer," LeFevre said. "If we have to rebuild the entire electrical system on the Canal Bridge, we could be looking at up to $50,000 in time and materials to fully restore navigation lighting over this busy waterway. That is a criminal theft of taxpayer money."
Lyon County Sheriff Kent Murphy says the thieves jeopardized the safety of the public in return for what was likely less than a $100 worth of scrap metal. He says the thieves will face felony charges if caught.
Thursday, bridge engineers and technicians placed solar-powered lights to mark the bridge piers and the midpoint of the navigation channel that runs beneath the structure. If the solar lights work out they may become a permanent fixture on the bridge.
The Canal Bridge, also known as the Between the Rivers Memorial Bridge, is at KY 453 Lyon County mile point zero, a few hundred yards south of the Lyon-Livingston county line at Grand Rivers. The bridge crosses the canal that connects Kentucky Lake with Lake Barkley and serves as the northern entrance to the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. About 1,200 vehicles cross the bridge in an average day, according to KYTC.
In addition to felony state charges, federal charges could be added for destroying a navigation light that is critical for river traffic safety.