KENTUCKY (KFVS) - Vandals are being sought after officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) said someone damaged and stole navigation lights on two Paducah area bridges.
The KYTC is seeking the assistance of both state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Over Labor Day Weekend, the McCracken County Sheriff's Department investigated a report of damage to navigation lights on U.S. 45 Ohio River "Brookport" Bridge at Paducah.
Severe damage was reported to a solar panel that powers critical navigation lights, prompting a report to the U.S. Coast Guard so commercial tow boats could be alerted that some navigation lights were out of service. Green lights were knocked out that marked the center of the main Ohio River navigation span on the structure.
The following week, inspectors found damage to solar navigation lights on the KY 453 Canal Bridge near the Lyon-Livingston County Line at the northern entrance to Land Between The Lakes National Recreation area. Damage was found to the walkway used by inspectors to access the area beneath the bridge deck.
Two of the red navigation lights that mark piers of the bridge for passing boat traffic had been stolen. Two others had been damaged. The incident was reported to the Lyon County Sheriff and Coast Guard officials.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Mike McGregor is asking a variety of agencies to assist with investigating the damage. He's also asking anyone with information on the vandalism to contact police, KYTC District 1, or the Coast Guard.
"This is more than just vandalism. It creates a safety hazard for passing tow boat traffic and it creates a hazard to those traveling on the bridge," McGregor said. "Additionally, it is costly to repair and replace these critical navigation lights."
Paint used to vandalize navigation lights with graffiti on nearby piers that contained social media account information, phone numbers, and other identifiers are being investigated.
McGregor said at the very least the damage cost estimate would be high enough to reach felony status under Kentucky state law. In addition to state felony charges, federal charges could be added for destroying a navigation light that is critical for river traffic safety.
This is not the first, but the second time vandals have damaged navigation lights on the Canal Bridge. The first time was in March of 2013, wires had been stolen and the damage was estimated at more than $50,000. The hard-wired system was replaced with solar powered lights that were permanently attached to the bridge structure.