Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

  The Facebook Easement and Other North Coast News

Seaside Residents Oppose a Development Proposal: Hearing November 2nd

Wheeler Planning Commission Denies Ulbricht Fish Plant

DSL Finalizes the Facebook Encroachment Easement for Facebook’s
Seafloor Drilling Accident
Seaside Residents Oppose a Development Proposal: Hearing November 2nd
Aerial of Vista Ridge II Proposal. Courtesy Lief Morin
On a steep forested hill in Seaside a developer (Sunset Ridge LLC) proposed a project called Vista Ridge II. It was very basic: the company would cut the heavily forested parcel and sell lots after putting in utilities — a so-called “subdivide and run” speculative proposal for a 17-lot residential subdivision on six and a half acres. The applicant applied under Seaside’s Planned Development ordinance, which requires a substantial amount of information, most of which the applicant either did not supply or which was extremely sketchy. Appalled residents banded together to oppose the project. ORCA supports their concerns with a project that fails to meet necessary land use requirements in local ordinance and state law.

The land is steep, forested with mature forest — many trees between 50-150 years old — and contains two salmon-bearing streams. It is contiguous with other parcels of undeveloped, forested lands. Residents, investigating the application, were amazed to find the developer had not provided the city with a wetland delineation, wetland maps, hydrology report, erosion control plan, or transportation plan. Information that was submitted by the developer underrepresented the unbuildable aspects of the property. As residents have pointed out, this project cannot be justified by Seaside’s potential growth, which is negligible. Nor was there any consideration of the Necanicum Vision Plan. Empty lots in adjacent neighborhoods have remained vacant for 10-15 years, making it clear that the project is of a type of development Seaside cannot benefit from. Affordable workforce housing is desperately needed in Seaside, not speculative luxury developments. The neighbors have created a website to reach out to the community with their concerns: https://dontclearcutseaside.org/

The Seaside Planning Commission, at an initial hearing in September, requested more information. A new hearing is scheduled for November 2nd, at 6:00 PM. For information on the project, see here.
Wheeler Planning Commission Denies Ulbricht Fish Plant
Wheeler Docks and Nehalem Bay. Courtesy City of Wheeler
The Wheeler Planning Commission, after a second hearing on October 7th, denied the proposal for a fish processing plant, with a retail sales outlet, for the Botts Marsh LLC/Ken Ulbricht property on Nehalem Bay. The vote was close: a 3-3 tie with one abstention. Under planning commission rules, that means the proposal failed. 

The planning commission elected to continue their decision-making of the project as an outright use rather than a conditional use, despite the many gaps in the applicant’s submitted materials. But even as an outright use, the plans were vague and the drawings for the project nearly incomprehensible to commission members. There was much discussion of technical details concerning the site drawings, geotechnical concerns, flood likelihood (as the property directly abuts Nehalem Bay). In the end, three commissioners felt the project was so lacking in the necessary substantive detail that they could not support it.

It is likely that Botts Marsh LLC will appeal the denial to City Council, but no hearing dates have been set thus far.
DSL Finalizes the Facebook Encroachment Easement for Facebook’s Seafloor Drilling Accident
Facebook/Edge Cable Drilling Site Aerial February 3, 2021
After months and months of work, the Department of State Lands finalized the encroachment easement that will allow Facebook to forever entomb the industrial trash resulting from their drilling accident in April 2020 — leaving some 6,500 gallons of drilling fluid and more than 1,000 feet of pipe under the seafloor off Tierra del Mar. Apart from the galling idea that such a mess would be allowed to remain under the sea forever, there are quite a few disturbing aspects to the easement as signed. 

For starters, how did DSL arrive at a figure of $135,686.43 for the “consideration” of the easement? The easement is to last for fifty years — how was that period of time calculated? Then there is the provision that allows the grantee (i.e., Facebook) to "in its discretion apply to extend this Easement Authorization for additional term of thirty (30) years in accordance with governing law and applicable rules of Grantor at the time of extension.” The company can get the same extension on top of any already-extended term as well. So Facebook could end up with an easement of eighty years, or apparently indefinitely more, with no real oversight.

Facebook is required by the easement to remove all the industrial trash under the seafloor within a year after expiration of the easement, unless they can prove it would be more detrimental to remove the materials than leave them. DSL is relying on the Hazards Analysis Facebook paid for in 2020, as the easement explicitly states. The only shred of oversight involved is that the state may request an updated analysis “if the assumptions underlying the conclusions in the Analysis materially change.”

The easement allows the state to do an inspection at any time, and Facebook must do a “noninvasive inspection” upon the state’s reasonable request — but no more than once every fifteen years. There are various conditions surrounding the inspections, including submitting to the state an Inspection Plan, which DSL must approve. Facebook must maintain a surety bond or cash deposit of $50,000 or the inspection cost estimate, to pay for these inspections.

Finally, and to finish out the easement’s effort to provide the lightest touch possible on Facebook, the document expressly states that the new legislation passed in 2021, HB 2603 — which will initiate the regulation of submarine cables in Oregon — will not apply to the easement or any future time extension. The easement is intended to govern the aftermath of this unconscionable accident in solitude, untouched by legislative efforts to protect Oregon’s nearshore habitats. Whether or not future legislation will apply to this easement is an unanswered question. The entire easement all seems unreal, given how swiftly history and the environment change. In fifty, eighty or two hundred years, this easement is unlikely to carry much weight, if anyone remembers it at all. Unless, of course, the abandoned drilling equipment resurfaces.