An aid to navigation - a buoy that marks the channels for ships to come in - was vandalized and rendered useless near Desdemona Sands on the Columbia River Thursday.

The Desdemona Sands Light, No. 9995, was left with the day board completely removed and the lantern lens shattered by gunfire.

Acts of vandalism to aids of navigation happen frequently. The U.S. Coast Guard spends an average cost of $15,000 a year in the Pacific Northwest on replacement and repairs.

Commercial ships entering the Columbia River rely heavily on aids to navigation to prevent maritime accidents. If a freighter were to run aground because of a missing or damaged aid to navigation, the wildlife and communities that rely on a clean river could be devastated. A vessel aground in these channels could close the river to other commercial vessels causing a chain reaction of economic and environmental damage, said Adam Eggers, Coast Guard public affairs officer with the 13th district.

A person can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony for vandalizing an aid to navigation. A felony, based on the repair costs, could carry with it the possibility of a prison term of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

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