Copper thieves could delay the summer openings of some South Shore recreation sites after stealing precious metal from restrooms at Kiva Picnic Area, Fallen Leaf Campground and Pope and Baldwin beaches, according to a Thursday statement from the U.S. Forest Service.
The suspects vandalizing the buildings, some of them newly constructed, in their attempts to access copper plumbing pipes and sell them for scrap metal, according to the statement.
Forest Service law enforcement officers and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the incidents. The violations carry fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail for each incident. The Forest Service can also pursue civil penalties to recover the cost of repairing the facilities, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the statement. Other recreation sites in the Lake Tahoe Basin have also experienced thefts in recent months.
“These thefts and associated vandalism may necessitate a delay in the opening of these sites to allow us to bring them back up to code,” Forest Service recreation specialist Bob Becker said in the statement. “While copper theft may seem like a victimless crime, there’s a real impact on our ability to serve the public and in terms of the cost to the federal government and concessionaires to repair the damage.”
The agency expects to use an alternate material for the repairs to eliminate the potential for vandalism in the future. Forest Service law enforcement personnel say they now have agency facilities under heavy surveillance.
The Forest Service urges people with information about the thefts to contact Secret Witness at 530-541-6800 or Forest Service law enforcement at 530-545-9853. Tips can also be submitted to El Dorado County’s website.