Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

  Legislative Success and Shoreline Problems

The Submarine Cable Bill (HB 2603) Passes the Legislature!

Goal 18 Exceptions Update: Lincoln County and Tillamook County
The Submarine Cable Bill (HB 2603) Passes the Legislature!
Facebook/Edge Cable Drilling Site Aerial February 3, 2021
The long-suffering residents of Tierra del Mar, along with Oregon Coast Alliance and Surfrider, have cause for celebration: HB 2603, the submarine cable bill, passed the Legislature. The Facebook debacle, which ended with thousands of gallons of drilling fluid under the seafloor, along with other abandoned drilling trash — and a submarine cable landed in the middle of a rural residential area — concerned many people coastwide. Representative Gomberg, in whose district Tierra del Mar lies, made sure the bill was introduced, well drafted and ultimately successful. Surfrider’s Policy Director, Charlie Plybon, did yeoman’s work to get the bill passed.

The submarine cable industry did not want to see any regulation of its activities in Oregon. But Facebook’s outrageous behavior, coupled with their cavalier attitude during and after the drilling disaster, made it clear that regulations needed to be put into place. The bill requires DLCD to undertake a review of the submarine cable process in the Territorial Sea Plan. This review must consider fee structures and permit processes. The Ocean Policy Advisory Council then must develop recommendations for amendments to the Territorial Sea Plan that address cable placement and several other crucial facets of submarine cable placement, including suitable landing sites, fee structures, and the impact of drilling on biological resources. Other facets may include such critical things as a “needs” analysis, a detailed drilling and accident response plan, and geological studies.

While somewhat cumbersome, this new process allows concerned parties to evaluate other regulations from around the country and the world, and create a regulatory framework that will hopefully guarantee that the Facebook’s cavalier determination to land its cable in a residential area, and the company's utter disregard for Oregon’s nearshore environment, never occur again. 
Goal 18 Exceptions Update:
Lincoln County and Tillamook County
Pine Beach Proposed Riprap Area. Courtesy Tillamook County
Two county planning commissions are currently hearing applications for “reasons” exceptions to Goal 18, which prohibits shoreline armoring on any lot developed after January 1, 1977. The two applications are, however, very different. Riprap, the placing of large boulders in front of eroding properties, exacerbates beach erosion and sand nourishment as waves are deflected from the boulders. Goal 18 seeks to limit such erosion by placing strict limits on properties eligible for armoring.

Lincoln County: a group of landowners in the Gleneden Beach area (including WorldMark Resort and SeaRidge Condominiums) are requesting an exception in order to place riprap in front of their properties. All were developed after 1977, and so would not be eligible for riprap unless an exception is granted. The issue is whether the state’s strong policy of preventing beach erosion by limiting riprap can be successful in Gleneden Beach, where more than 90% of the properties are already riprapped. Experts have concluded that the beachfront in this area is already severely compromised due to earlier armoring, and is likely to erode ever more significantly, especially as storm intensity and wave heights increase. Putting these riprap structures in will not stop the larger processes from exacerbating beach erosion, but will provide temporary protection. The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), reviewing all the materials, determined that in this instance, an exception to Goal 18 is warranted, since the beach is already so severely compromised by earlier riprap. ORCA came to a similar conclusion.

Tillamook County: homeowners in the Pine Beach area near Watseco and Barview requested a Goal 18 exception to riprap their properties after a king tide sent some water up among the houses. Once again, despite the applicants’ assertions to the contrary, all the properties requesting riprap were developed after 1977. Their application contained no alternatives analysis, thus casting doubt on whether the goal exception is even warranted. This littoral cell (from South Jetty at Nehalem Bay to North Jetty at Tillamook Bay) is largely unspoiled beach, with less than 30% of the shoreline armored. Adding some 880 feet of armoring in this natural beach area would need a very high bar to succeed. DLCD in this instance recommended Tillamook County deny the Goal 18 exception, as no alternatives were considered, nor did the applicants provide an analysis of riprap’s likely effects or justify why it is needed; and the majority of the shoreline in this area is free of armoring. ORCA reached the same conclusion, pointing out that the nearby Shorewood Resort, which has been heavily riprapped since 1999, provides a perfect example of why riprap is a bad solution: heavy beach erosion exists on either side of the armoring, and has only worsened over the years.