Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Cannon Beach Dune Protection and Tillamook Undersea Cable
A Sheet Pile Wall in Ecola Creek Estuary?
Placement of sheet pile in front of beach home in Neskowin, 2003. Courtesy of OPRD
There is a weak spot near the mouth of Ecola Creek on the north side of the estuary, in Cannon Beach. It is a low sand cliff, and always  erodes further during high  tides and  storm waves. This would not matter much, except that the Breakers Point condominium development  was built too close to the edge of Ecola - as was recognized at the time - and the erosion continually threatens both Breakers and buried pipelines. During winter storms, especially when compounded by king tides, Ecola Creek estuary fills to the brim and erosion at the weak  spot  accelerates. In December 2015, exactly this happened, endangering  some of the Breakers Point buildings, as well as gas main stubs embedded in the cliff.  Cannon Beach authorized emergency grading, which turned out to be illegal as designed, and led to a violation from the Parks and Recreation Department 

Breakers Point Homeowners Association subsequently sought, and obtained, approval to place a "soft burrito" type of shoreline stabilization along the  north bank. Willows  can be planted in the matting to help stabilize the shoreline. Unfortunately, the mouth of Ecola Creek is too dynamic an environment for the usual kind of soft burrito stabilization project, and within a couple of years it disintegrated.
But the  problem continues . It is inappropriate, as well as contrary to Cannon  Beach  planning  documents, for Breakers Point to grade the dunes in front of the development and dump the sand in Ecola Creek to shore up the eroding spot. Nor does it offer a permanent solution to the problem.

Most recently, Breakers Point decided to try another tactic: the HOA applied for a  building permit to construct a seawall of sheet pile to stop the estuary erosion. Since this would be a shoreline armoring project, Breakers Point should have applied for the usual conditional use permit, which requires extensive public hearings and decisions by the planning commission and City Council. Instead, Breakers Point - perhaps thinking to avoid the controversies of a public process - requested a building permit, normally the final permit after all land use approvals have been granted.

Greatly to its credit, city officials rejected the  request, on  grounds that the HOA must go through the regular conditional use permit process. If Breakers Point does submit such an application, Oregon Coast Alliance will be there, vigorously defending the need for natural processes  in the Ecola estuary.

So what is the solution to the constant erosion? One would be  to remove the portions of Breakers' Point built too close to the estuary's edge, thus giving  the estuary the room it needs.  The other solution is probably some kind of cobble berm. This uses ordinary-size stones (cobbles) spread along the beach to break the force of waves, sometimes in conjunction with a "burrito" type of structure above it. These are expensive and must be carefully designed to work in such dynamic environments, but have proven successful in several environments on our coast, most especially on the shoreline by South Jetty on the Columbia.

Oregon Coast Alliance supports a cobble berm solution, and urges Cannon Beach, Breakers Point and interested residents to come together and explore  the ways and means  to provide a non-intrusive, permanent solution  to the erosion problem.

Tierra del Mar Facebook Submarine Cable Update
Aerial photo of Tierra del Mar. Photo Courtesy of Ed Ruttledge
Edge Cable, a contractor for Facebook, wants to build an undersea fiber optic  telecommunications cable between the Oregon coast and Japan and the Philippines. To do this, Edge will have to undertake "horizontal directional drilling" (i.e., fracking) under the ocean shore. They then must install the conduit for placement of the cable. This will entail some six months or more of drilling, and constant industrial noise emanating from such equipment as a mud recycling unit. Uniquely, Edge Cable purchased a vacant lot in the quiet rural community of Tierra del Mar in Tillamook County for the terminal location on the Oregon side. Usually the terminals for these cables are on public property, not private lots. Both the TDM community and Oregon Coast Alliance are steadfastly opposed to this submarine cable. It is a highly industrial project that should never be allowed in a quiet rural residential community. 

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department received two applications for conduit placement of the fiber optic cable under the ocean shore. ORPD approved one, but denied the other application to merely lay an empty conduit for future use.   In the denial, OPRD said, "the speculative installation of conduits on the ocean shore to accommodate unspecified projects is not in the interest of, or  benefit to,  the public." The approval of Edge Cable's principal application caused several TDM residents to file appeals, and Oregon Coast Alliance as well. The administrative process of hearing those appeals has just begun.

Meantime, Edge has submitted its application to Tillamook County for a conditional use permit. This will be the big land use hearing for this project. The County wisely decided this was sufficiently controversial to require a planning commission hearing, but it has not yet been scheduled.

The Department of State Lands just issued its approval of the removal fill permit for work in the territorial sea. This is a particularly poorly thought-out decision, as very little environmental analysis has taken place about the ecology of the territorial sea, and the effects of directional drilling on the myriads of threatened and endangered species in the nearshore ocean. The sea is a vast but vulnerable ecosystem, much threatened by the increasing industrialization, of which cable-laying is a good example.

It is rare in Oregon for coastal communities to challenge cable placements, even when the landward end requires months of industrial level drilling and mud recycling at intense noise levels. The Tierra del Mar community is fighting a new kind of battle, working to let officials know how profoundly disruptive such a project would be to their community and the marine ecosystem. If they lose, other private property on the coast is at risk for similar ventures.

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