The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) announced in late July that Edge Cable Holdings, Inc., a subcontractor for Facebook, has notified them of drilling equipment that was left behind during the undersea fiber optic cable project near Tierra Del Mar. Edge Cable had been working on laying the undersea cable with a landing at a residential lot in Tierra Del Mar.
Project representatives informed DSL that on April 28, the drill pipe snapped. The pipe was being replaced at a depth that ranged from 40-69 feet. Approximately 1,100 feet of drill pipe, a drill tip, two tools for drill steering and tracking, and approximately 6,500 gallons of drilling fluid were abandoned in the ocean.
DSL said Edge Cable Holdings, Inc. did not notify them of the abandoned equipment until June 17. This delay in notifying DSL eliminated any potential options for recovery of the equipment.
“The accident represents negligence on behalf of the operator, as the equipment was pushed beyond its limits, putting lives and Oregon’s natural resources at risk,” Oregon Coast Alliance (ORCA) Executive Director Cameron La Follette and Charlie Plybon from the Surfrider Foundation wrote in a letter to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). “Failure to notify the agency, and abandonment of equipment now apparently unrecoverable on and below the ocean floor, is not only a violation of Edge Cable’s permit, but represents a continuing and permanent trespass of public lands.”
The letter was also sent to DSL, Rep. David Gomberg, Sen. Arnie Roblan and Jason Miner from the governor’s office. The two organizations asked in the letter for OPRD to withdraw Edge Cable’s state permits and easement.
Edge Cable hopes to continue the project in January 2021.
“Submarine cable projects must be held accountable, and be managed with strong policy tools that protect our natural resources and ocean habitats,” the letter from ORCA and Surfrider read.
DSL is evaluating options for corrective action, as well as the viability of continued work at the site. Initial assessment determined there to be no immediate environmental, health or safety impacts due to the presence of the equipment. They are continuing to assess potential impacts.
The Land Use Board of Appeals is set to issue a final opinion and order in the appeal of ORCA v. Tillamook County on Friday, Aug. 14.