Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

A Terrible House Proposal in Cannon Beach & Other News

The Roberts House in Cannon Beach: Testimony Deadline October 29th

Science, Surveys and the Future of the Facebook Submarine Cable:
Comments by November 5th

Clatsop County Resilience Project: The Public is Supportive…On Some Things
The Roberts House in Cannon Beach:
Testimony Deadline October 29th
The proposed Roberts house on the Hemlock S-Curve, showing the proposed driveway on pillars.
Stan and Rebecca Roberts want to build a rather large house in Cannon Beach, and applied to the city for a permit. But the devil is in the details, as always. In this instance the small, steep and geologically hazardous lot is perched right on the S-curve on Hemlock Street, and is so hard to get to that the driveway would have to be a hulking road built on big pillars, as the applicant’s drawing shows. It would be visible from the beach. Directly to the north of the Roberts lot is the Oswald West cabin, which is in private ownership and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cannon Beach initially granted a permit, with conditions that the house meet oceanfront setback rules. But the Roberts appealed this approval, as they did not want setback rules to apply. Before the planning commission hearing last week, the Roberts submitted a survey showing the house would not meet the setback requirements, so city staff recommended their appeal be denied.

The hearing was continued for a week so the public could have more opportunity to participate in what is rapidly becoming a highly controversial project, made all the more so by the applicant’s threat to sue if not allowed to disregard the oceanfront setback requirements, on grounds that obeying the requirements would be an unconstitutional “taking.”  

ORCA strongly opposes the proposed Roberts house for several reasons, especially because it is critically important that new construction be required to meet ocean setback requirements. This is fundamental good planning in a town perched on the edge of the ocean, and the rules have been in place since the 1990s. Roberts knew about them when he bought the lot. Furthermore, the effects on the adjacent Oswald West cabin have been little discussed, as have the geological hazards of building a pillar-supported driveway on this small, steep lot. Testimony due by Thursday, October 29 at 5:00 PM. Send testimony to adams@ci.cannon-beach.or.us by this Thursday at 5:00 PM.
Science, Surveys and the Future of the Facebook Submarine Cable: Comments by November 5th
Edge Cable/Facebook Equipment on Tierra del Mar Lot as of April 30, 2020.
DSL received an application from Edge Cable for the so-called “encroachment easement” to allow the company to leave their abandoned drilling trash under the seafloor forever. Comments due by November 5th to Blake Helm: blake.helm@dsl.state.or.us. The application is vague about many things, including equipment location, hazards involved, and the likelihood of encountering the trash when drilling a new borehole.

Meanwhile, studies and responses to studies continue to fly back and forth between Facebook and Oregon state agencies concerning the submarine cable drilling accident in April 2020 and the company’s desire to start the project again in January of next year. The Parks Department is reviewing the company’s hazard report, has questions about it, and does not regard it as final. Meantime, the Department granted Facebook a permit for geophysical examination examination of the site by (among other things) drawing a core sample from the beach.

The Department of State Lands, which grants the principal permits for submarine cable projects, asked the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to review the company’s hazard analysis. DOGAMI noted that areas with sandy seafloor, like the project site, change seasonally as sand moves under shifting wave patterns, a hazard not noted by Facebook’s report. Even more sobering, there is a large, deep-seated (and currently inactive) landslide immediately south of the project site, which could rearrange nearshore sediments in the event of a major earthquake. The company will be responding to these concerns and others in the coming weeks.

ORCA continues to advocate for study of this situation by Oregon oceanographers, who are familiar with our seafloor dynamics. In addition, this project should never be allowed to start again, given the track record of coverups and incompetence shown thus far. It will also be essential to place standards in Oregon law to prohibit submarine cable landings in residential areas, and ensure that future cable projects meet strict showings of need.
Clatsop County Resiliency Project: The Public Is Supportive…On Some Things
Clatsop County Waves and Trees. Courtesy ORCA
Clatsop County sent out a questionnaire to County residents asking about the proposed Resiliency Project. They have tabulated the responses, and have been making public statements that the results show the public agrees with the County on moving this project ahead. 

But that is not what the results actually show. For starters, the questionnaire was poorly designed and included no maps — people who do not live in the immediate area may very well not know where the proposals are even located. Second, the questions were confusing, and about 30% of the questionnaires had blank or only partly filled in responses. That is a high percentage.

The responses gave the greatest amount of support for moving the Public Works Department out of the tsunami zone, 69% of respondents agreeing with that, and some 43% said that should be the top priority. Almost as high a percentage agreed the County should acquire existing private roads for alternate or emergency routes, if available. But in questions asking respondents to rank priorities in the Project, the County’s favored alternate route — the private logging road known as the Mainline — came in lowest. Only only 8% of respondents thought acquiring it should be the top priority. In other words, it was not the favored choice among members of the public.

Given the flawed nature of the questionnaire, and the high (often 30%) number of partially blank or confused answers, plus the poor level of support for the County’s cherished alternate route proposal, the County would do well not to consider this survey a ringing vote of support for forging ahead with current plans. Instead, let the County take away the message that residents are principally supportive of moving Public Works out of the tsunami zone. The County should pursue the most sensible and cost-effective location for doing so, most appropriately the North Coast Business Park parcel the County already owns. Still not on the tax rolls after many years’ effort, it probably is the best bet for a relocated Public Works.