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Facebook Steamrolling Locals PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 January 2020 10:44


Edge Cable, a fully-owned subsidiary of Facebook, quietly purchased a vacant lot in the unincorporated community of Tierra del Mar (TDM) Oregon in October 2018. About a month later the residents suddenly learned about its proposal to install a high-speed fiber-optic cable system (the Jupiter cable project) capable of providing a large capacity direct link between the U.S. and Japan and the Philippines. The cable would “land” at the vacant lot in TDM. But the submarine cable would require a half mile of hydraulic drilling, five miles of seafloor trenching and laying cable across the Pacific Ocean, which requires the stationing of massive equipment at the landing site. This includes machinery (such as a huge mud-recycling unit) on the tiny residential lot, necessary to complete the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for the cable, better known as fracking. This means, in practice, up to six months of continuous, very loud, drilling, with industrial machinery less than fifty feet from existing homes, and more “if contingency measures are required” – in other words, if there is a frac-out.

Locals in coastal Tierra del Mar Oregon are trying to stop Facebook from using property in their quiet community to build a landing spot for an ultra-high-speed, undersea cable connecting America with Asia.

Representatives of the social media giant say Tierra del Mar is one of the few places on the U.S. West Coast suitable for the ultra high-speed cable. It will link multiple U.S. locations, including Facebook's huge data center in the central Oregon town of Prineville, with Japan and the Philippines, and will help meet an increasing demand for internet services worldwide, the company says

Locals say vibrations from drilling to bring the submarine cable ashore in this village of some 200 houses might damage home foundations and septic systems. They also point out that Tierra del Mar, arrayed along a pristine beach, is zoned residential. If the county and state allow the project, they say, more commercial ventures will come calling.

The cable would “land” at the vacant lot in TDM. But the submarine cable would require a half mile of hydraulic drilling, five miles of seafloor trenching and laying cable across the Pacific Ocean, which requires the stationing of massive equipment at the landing site. This includes machinery (such as a huge mud-recycling unit) on the tiny residential lot, necessary to complete the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for the cable, better known as fracking. This means, in practice, up to six months of continuous, very loud, drilling, with industrial machinery less than fifty feet from existing homes, and more “if contingency measures are required” – in other words, if there is a frac-out.

Edge Cable needs a conditional use permit for this proposal from Tillamook County. Though TDM is zoned for rural residential use, highly industrial projects like this one are allowed with a conditional use permit, which both ORCA and the neighbors find very disturbing. The purpose of Oregon’s land use system is to segregate uses that do not belong together, and surely this industrial cable project is an activity that does not belong in a rural residential community that lacks even a fire hydrant or a store, and has no cell phone service. A conditional use application is reviewed by several criteria, most pertinently, “The proposed use will not alter the character of the surrounding area in a manner which substantially limits, impairs or prevents the use of surrounding properties for the permitted uses in the underlying zone.”

"This is a huge precedent. Once you open the shores to these companies coming anywhere they want to, Oregon's coast is pretty much wide-open season," resident Patricia Rogers told county officials in written remarks.

Tierra del Mar, 65 miles (105 kilometers) southwest of Portland, is home to a mix of professionals and retirees who share a love of the unspoiled beach that is fringed with coastal pines and the deer, bald eagles and rare seabirds that inhabit the area. It has two businesses, a rock shop and antiques store, and no cell service, apparently because providers don't consider it profitable enough.

Tierra del Mar, 65 miles (105 kilometers) southwest of Portland, is home to a mix of professionals and retirees who share a love of the unspoiled beach that is fringed with coastal pines and the deer, bald eagles and rare seabirds that inhabit the area. It has two businesses, a rock shop and antiques store, and no cell service, apparently because providers don't consider it profitable enough.

Residents' attention turned to Facebook in 2018 when a subsidiary bought the empty lot for the cable landing from former NFL and University of Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington. County records show Edge Cable Holdings, USA, paid him $495,000 for the beachfront property, about the size of 10 tennis courts.

"I am extremely angry about and opposed to the cavalier attitude that an amoral multi-national, multi-billion-dollar corporation has taken to this tiny residentially zoned portion of Tillamook County," resident Carol J. Griffith said in written comments.

Facebook representatives told county officials the horizontal directional drilling will last about a month, and all that will remain is a manhole cover. They said they carefully chose the Tierra del Mar site, avoiding areas where fishermen trawl and keeping to places that allow burial of the cable so nets won't snag on it. They also had to skirt undersea canyons and federally protected fish habitat.

Undersea cables have around 800 landing points around the world, according to Submarine Telecoms Forum. Nielsen said opposition to them is rare.

The one Facebook wants to put in Tierra del Mar splits off in the Pacific Ocean from the Jupiter cable that Facebook, Amazon and telecommunications companies from Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong are invested in. The main trunk would land in Hermosa Beach, California, with the Oregon branch solely owned by Facebook.

Under the ground, the fiber optic cable would connect with another one running down the coast 4 miles (6 kilometers) to a cable landing site in a bigger coastal town, Pacific City, where four cables are already in place. Facebook says that site cannot fit a fifth cable and cited a risk of crossing cables.