Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

Annexation Hearing and Facebook Frac-Out!

Benedick Annexation: Florence City Council Hearing February 1st

Facebook/Edge Cable Has a Frac-Out While Drilling Onshore at Tierra del Mar

The Jerry’s Flat Property Just Outside Gold Beach Has a New Owner
Benedick Annexation: Florence City Council Hearing February 1st
Benedick Holdings LLC Annexation Proposal. Courtesy City of Florence
Florence planning commission approved the proposed Benedick annexation of 48 acres, plus Oceana Drive, into the city limits. The City Council hearing is scheduled for February, 1st at 5:30 pm. If you are concerned about this issue, please submit written testimony about your concerns. Comments should be emailed to Kelli Weese. At this time all City Council meetings are virtual rather than in person. For information on participating, see here.

The packet, and the city’s Findings of Fact (e.g., staff report), are here.

This annexation is vehemently opposed by many nearby residents, for many reasons. Adding Oceana Drive as a “cherry stem” to connect the 48 acres to the city is a dubious move, and certainly not an orderly provision of services to residents, as the city’s annexation policies require. For one thing, other residents of the area would be required to connect to the sewer, which Florence has not analyzed or adequately considered, nor has the applicant. Second, flooding is a constant problem in this area due to wetlands and seasonal lakes. Local testimony makes clear that Benedick Holdings has failed to stem flooding in its past developments, and Florence itself does not have the capacity to handle another large surge of stormwater from developing a good-sized parcel that consists mainly of wetlands designated as “significant" in the Florence Area Local Wetlands inventory.
Facebook/Edge Cable Has a Frac-Out While Drilling Onshore at Tierra del Mar
Facebook/Edge Personnel at the Site of the January 25th Frac-out in Tierra del Mar. Courtesy Ed Ruttledge
Are we surprised? Facebook/Edge Cable had a frac-out while drilling the pilot bore hole for the casing installation. Drilling mud welled up on Lot 3200, a little west of the drilling site. Facebook said it was “only” fifty gallons. But there are many other questions to be answered here. First and foremost, how many gallons per minute was the rig pumping? That would tell us if more, perhaps much more, mud was released than Facebook/Edge says was released. And it could easily be that fifty gallons reached the surface, but other mud is subsurface, in the sands or in the shallow aquifer. How will the contractors seal the fracture now? If they pump the muds back to the drill site entry, that is surely outside the scope of work currently permitted. Facebook said they would provide a full report about the incident to the agencies on Thursday the 28th. ORCA looks forward to it, but the residents of Tierra del Mar even more so.

How many accidents, bungled protocols and all-around incompetence have to happen before Tillamook County (which has jurisdiction over the Tierra del Mar tax lot 3200) and the Department of State Lands — which issued the overall permit and easement — finally revoke the permissions for this project? There is no protection of beaches, dunes, communities, residential areas or aquifers happening here. The agencies keep reviewing protocols and piling up reports for what to do if disaster strikes. Now disaster has struck a second time, and still neither the state nor the county have revoked the company’s permits for this misbegotten project. How much does it take?
The Jerry’s Flat Property Just Outside Gold Beach Has a New Owner
Aerial Photo of Jerry’s Flat property Showing DEQ Controlled Area January, 2021. Courtesy City of Gold Beach
The property just outside the Gold Beach city limits, known locally as the Jerry’s Flat property, has a new owner. Why is this news? The property is about 152 acres, bordering directly onto the Rogue River. It is adjacent to the city of Gold Beach’s water plant, and near its water supply intake. Formerly a plywood mill was sited there, which ceased operations in the 1980s and then burned down in 1991. The property is zoned Industrial, but has been unused since the mill burned thirty years ago, for good reason: it is contaminated. The new owners, the Patels, applied for annexation into the Gold Beach City limits, and the city will be holding public hearings soon on the request. Gold Beach is willing to annex the parcel because of its proximity to their water intake; having the land inside the city gives the city more oversight authority. 

But potential uses the new owners might contemplate are very limited because of the contamination from the old plywood mill. Gold Beach Investment Properties, the prior owner, was likely very happy to get out from under ownership. The land is on the Department of Environmental Quality’s list of contaminated sites. DEQ forbids use of the shallow groundwater on the property in the contaminated area, and prohibits development for any kind of residential, recreational or food-crop agricultural use unless DEQ approves it. Full environmental contamination studies have never been done on any of the property, only the initial phase. There have been concerns for years that contamination on the far side of the road is poisoning the Rogue River via groundwater movement, for example.

ORCA has no objections to the Jerry’s Flat property being annexed into Gold Beach. But when development proposals begin, we may well have serious concerns about the public health and safety, given the DEQ restrictions and the incomplete environmental assessments that have been done. There have been initial conversations about a mobile home park of some kind on the parcel — a proposal that would raise immediate red flags.