Pacific Power officials are working with the Walla Walla County Sheriff's department to find out who the people are that stole copper grounding wire from two substations near Wallula.

Authorities say the theft was discovered March 28th, at the substation located on Dodd road between Railex and and Sundance roads. A Pacific Power worker checking the area noticed the gate to the large substation was slightly open. He discovered the lock had been sawed through, and the thieves made off nearly all the copper ground wires at the facility.

It was repaired but at a cost of $50,000. Power to about 1,000 customers in that area East of Highway 12 also had to be cut off for 8 hours while new grounding was installed.

 Officials say it's one of the biggest thefts of the material in our region in years.

Then April 7th, workers discovered thieves also hit a second substation in the area, but didn't get away with enough copper ground wire to require any power shutdown. The total cost of those repairs has not yet been determined.

Pacific Power and Walla Walla County Sheriff's officials say not only will the culprits face likely felony charges, but could have killed themselves. Removing ground wires or any other equipment from a substation while the power is hot can result in hundreds of thousands of watts of power hitting the person or persons, it would fry them instantly.

Copper has become the prized material for recycling. While aluminum remains anywhere from $.25 to $.30 cents per pound for cans, and up to $.60 to $.75 cents a pound for siding and 'bulk' scrap, Copper is nearly ten times that.

The average price we found ranged from $2.50 to $2.60 per pound for copper. So if you steal 100 pounds of wire, you're in for at least a $250 payday.