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Know the West

Eight charged with bombing a river

  A former rafting guide and seven other men may be sent up the river for bombing a Class 6 rapid. A federal grand jury in Phoenix, Ariz., indicted William K. Stoner, 34, and his co-conspirators Oct. 13 on charges they blew up Quartzite Falls in Arizona's Salt River Canyon Wilderness. The boaters are accused of acquiring 154 pounds of explosives, then assembling and igniting bombs during at least five separate river trips between August and October of 1993. Before its destruction, Quartzite Falls backed up rafters, sending some on a three-hour portage. The falls are now so tame, "I could take my mother-in-law in her walker through it," said one veteran river-runner after the vandalism (HCN, 4/18/94). In addition to soaking boaters, the falls also acted as a barrier protecting native fish from hungry non-native species stocked downstream for anglers, says W.L. McKinley of Arizona State University, an expert on native fish in the Southwest. Because the rapid is technically federal property, its destruction by means of an explosive carries a $250,000 fine or a maximum of 20 years in prison, or both. "It is my hope that the prosecution of this serious crime will deter others from similarly stupid acts," says Janet Napolitano, U.S. attorney for the district of Arizona. The indictments followed a Forest Service investigation led by Special Agent Lyle Shaver.