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Vandals damage Lake Sammamish data buoy gathering weather info

A King County data buoy on Lake Sammamish that provides a wealth of water quality and weather information has been vandalized, creating an information gap at a time when the County has scarce funds to repair or replace the valuable data collectors.

Last week, vandals flipped over the buoy, which generates near real-time data that is not only useful for anglers, swimmers, skiers, triathletes and others, but scientists who rely on the data to monitor the health of the lake and discover clues into environmental trends such as climate change.

County staff are uncertain they’ll be able to salvage the equipment and replacement costs are estimated at roughly $60,000. Anyone with additional information about the vandalism is asked to call the King County Sheriff's Office at 206-296-3311.

Vandalism or destruction of this publicly owned property is a serious offense and can result in fines of up to $20,000 and imprisonment for a period of time up to 10 years.

This particular buoy also supports a weather station that reported hourly average air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and total solar radiation.

The loss of the buoy leaves only one working buoy in the Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish waters. It is the Lake Washington buoy directly north of the northwest corner of Mercer Island.

Both buoys are part of King County’s Major Lakes Monitoring Program, which is designed to protect the significant investment in water quality improvement and protection made by the people of King County by recording and analyzing the long-term environmental quality of lakes Sammamish, Union and Washington. Data collected by this and other buoys are available to the public at http://green.kingcounty.gov/lake-buoy/default.aspx.

King County scientists have also been sharing buoy-collected information with the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (http://www.gleon.org/) in the hopes of contributing data to a broader scientific investigation of the effects of local human activity and climate change on lake ecosystems.

A similar incident of vandalism on Lake Sammamish occurred in May 2009, and King County Environmental Services Unit staff were able to get the buoy’s data recorders and transmitters working again.

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