Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Facebook Says, 'Leave the Equipment Where It Is' and Other News.
Facebook Report: Leave the Abandoned Equipment Where It Is

Edge Cable Equipment for Submarine Cable in Tierra del Mar, March 2020. Courtesy Ed Ruttledge
Facebook just released its new report, entitled "Independent Hazards Analysis: Jupiter Drill Break, Tierra del Mar Subsea Cable Landing Site." The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department required this report to be submitted, as part of the state's ongoing effort to hold Facebook accountable for the April drilling accident that left a pile of abandoned equipment some sixty feet under the seafloor off Tierra del Mar.

The report was completed by ERM, but paid for by Facebook, and the conclusion is as we should expect: ERM recommended the equipment be left in its trench under the sea, creating a permanent pile of industrial marine trash. Most revealingly, ERM said there are "currently no adverse...impacts" to leaving the equipment in place. The seafloor and its substrate are a dynamic place, subject to storms, strong tides and other ocean processes little known to science. It may be quiet now, but that is no guarantee it will remain quiet.

Facebook recently indicated, in its August 25th letter to the Parks and Recreation Department, that the company plans to return in January 2021 and drill another bore hole nearby to try again to complete the project, clearly knowing at least fairly precisely where the abandoned equipment is: "The drilling path to be followed upon recommencement of construction in 2021 will remain substantially the same as the drilling path utilized during operations in 2020, but will be engineered to avoid the unrecovered materials." A host of unanswered questions arises concerning further disturbance to the seafloor, disturbance to the abandoned equipment, and instabilities that may be caused by drilling another bore hole in close proximity to the first one. 

Note that Facebook never has explained why they did not notify state officials of the abandoned equipment for nearly two months. Why is that? Facebook has given state officials, and the public, no indication that they plan to do a better job next time, if allowed to restart the project - only empty assurances that have no basis in their actual behavior thus far. Here are their words from a September 1st blog:  "We understand the importance and beauty of the Oregon coastline, and are committed to working with the community as a good environmental steward." Those are the words of a company that fears it might be held truly accountable for its corporate carelessness, and not be allowed to restart a project so badly bungled the first time. Oregon Coast Alliance believes that should, indeed, be the outcome. Our state agencies need to hold Facebook fully accountable for its actions. They do not deserve a second chance to undertake this project.
Ongoing Public Debates in Clatsop County

View from Oregon Coast Trail North of Cape Falcon EncMstr/Wikimedia.
Clatsop County is wrestling with two large ongoing policy debates this summer, which will continue on in to fall and for months to come. 

The first concerns the regulation of Short Term Rentals in the county. After a workshop in Cove Beach, where a large number of rentals are clustered in a very small rural community, county officials held a workshop for the Board of Commissioners. Questions center on better regulation of STRs, and how to deal with non-compliance issues most effectively. But there are larger questions, especially the issue of whether STRs should be permitted at all in residential zones. They disrupt neighborhoods, and unfairly burden residents with a merry-go-round of partying, renters coming and going, and cleaning activity as the STR is readied for the next influx of guests. STRs are clearly a commercial use, though the house itself is being used for residential activities. As a hybrid type of use, they are often allowed in residential zones, where they do not belong. The rise of internet booking platforms such as Airbnb have greatly exacerbated the problems statewide, and nationally, as STRs have blossomed in popularity. Clatsop County has not yet really begun grappling with the larger questions of the effect of STRs in neighborhoods.

The second major land use issue in Clatsop County is the Resiliency Project, also known as the Mainline Project. This began as a low key effort to relocate Clatsop County Public Works from its small site in Astoria to a site further south, out of the tsunami zone and more centrally situated. But the project has ballooned to a much larger proposal involving purchase of some 50 acres for a new Public Works site. It also includes potentially purchasing roadways that currently make up what is known as the "Mainline" - all privately-owned, local roads at this time - and bringing them up to county standard in order to haul supplies and equipment in the event of an emergency. At a recent public meeting about the project, county officials heard many questions from concerned residents, ranging from efficient use of taxpayer money to concern for the integrity of nearby farm and forest zoning if a new and improved Mainline is built in the area. The public process for the Resiliency Project will be ongoing for many months. For further information, click here.
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Contact Executive Director Cameron La Follette by email
or phone: 503-391-0210
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