Search and rescue crews in Skamania County are now better equipped to save lives in the rugged terrain of the Columbia River Gorge.
The Bonneville Power Administration is donating six all-terrain vehicles to Skamania County Sheriff deputies and to the county's Emergency Medical Services.
Skamania County emergency crews cover a 2,400-square-mile area, most of which is in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Skamania County deputies rescue dozens of people a year who are often lost or hurt in the mountains.
Undersheriff Dave Cox said with shrinking county budgets there is no way his office could afford to buy ATVs. "To come into a windfall for something like this is a real blessing," said Cox.
He also says the ATVs will not only be used for search and rescue but also for criminal investigations. "Marijuana eradication, remote drug labs, things like that. It's going be nice to have those vehicles available to us," says Cox.
Bonneville could sell the Polaris 4x4s and 6x6s for an estimated $5,000 each and typically auctions off such items to get the best return for ratepayers.
But in this case, the agency determined it was best for the region to donate the A TVs.
Ulrik Larsen of Bonneville's Property Disposal Office says, "money from selling the vehicles pales in comparison to helping a local jurisdiction save lives."
Several local jurisdictions asked for the vehicles but Bonneville donated the ATVs (all in very good shape) to organizations with the greatest need.
The BPA used the all-terrain vehicles to repair transmission lines in hard-to-reach areas. The federal agency was replacing its fleet when it made the donations.