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Undersea Cables in Oregon

Undersea cables, also known as “subsea cables”, are long cables that lie on the ocean floor and serve different purposes. Some undersea cables are a network of optical fibers carrying data around the world, and other cables may carry electricity from offshore wind turbines to land.

DSL is one of several State agencies who hold a regulatory role in an undersea cable project in Oregon.

DSL's Role in Undersea Cables in Oregon

The State Land Board, and DSL as the Land Board’s administrative agency, have jurisdiction over the submerged and submersible land of the territorial sea. This includes: 

  • Reviewing and authorizing easements for all uses of the seafloor, including placement of fiber optic cables; installation of wave and wind energy devices and research equipment; and exploration for minerals. See OAR 141-083 for additional information about territorial sea easements. 
  • Administering Oregon’s removal-fill law which governs the removal, fill and alteration of sediments, rock and other materials comprising the submerged and submersible land underlying the territorial sea. 

Most undersea cable projects require both an easement and a removal-fill permit from DSL.

Current Active Project: Bifrost Undersea Cable

AMCS LLC, an affiliate of Amazon Web Services, has applied for a territorial sea cable easement and a removal-fill permit for the Bifrost undersea fiber optic telecommunication cable in Tillamook County near Cloverdale.

Sign up here to receive email updates on DSL comment opportunities for the Bifrost project and future undersea cable projects in Oregon.

The following description was summarized from the application: 

The Bifrost cable would cross the Pacific Ocean connecting Singapore, Guam, and the west coast of the United States, landing in Cloverdale, Oregon. For the Oregon landing, the cable would be buried in the seafloor on the continental shelf and land at the Wi-Ne-Ma Christian Camp via horizontally directional drilled bore pipe. Upon landing, the cable would be fed through a new upland beach manhole transitioning to a new 235-foot terrestrial conduit build to attach to a newly constructed terrestrial cable conduit on Wi Ne Ma Rd (constructed in an effort separate from this project). An ocean ground bed of four to six rods would be buried adjacent the beach manhole to ground the cable system.

Questions about the easement application, removal-fill application, or public comment process? Contact Cait McCusker​. If you have questions about the overall project, please contact the applicant at
Obtaining this easement would allow the applicant use of a 15-foot-wide area of shore and seabed from ordinary high tide to the three-mile limit of Oregon’s territorial sea. The easement area would contain: 

  • The fiber optic cable. T​he cable would be buried beneath the seafloor at a depth of 3 to 5 feet while on the Continental Shelf and laid directly on the seafloor beyond the shelf. The cable would measure approximately 1- to-1.5 inches in diameter and consist of the fiber optic cores, a copper conductor, stainless steel strength members, and waterproofing. 
  • The landing pipe. The approximately 6-to-7-inch wide and 4,100 feet long, the pipe extends from a beach access manhole (outside the easement area) to underneath the seafloor and will be installed using Horizontal Directional Drilling.

​See the full easement application (# 64189-EA) here.​​ Following the public comment period, DSL staff develop a recommendation to the State Land Board and the Land Board decides whether to approve or deny the easement.​ This application is going before the Land Board on August 8, 2023.​

​​Obtaining this removal-fill permit would allow the applicant to install an undersea cable by temporarily removing and filling within the seafloor by various plowing methods from the western end of the Horizontal Directional Drilling pipe west to the three-mile limit of Oregon’s territorial sea. Horizontal Directional Drilling below the seafloor is exempt from permitting under the Removal-Fill Law. ​​​

See the full removal-fill permit application (# 64186-RF) here. ​Following the public comment period, DSL staff develop a recommendation and findings for the program Manager to conduct a final review on whether to approve or deny the removal-fill permit.​​

DSL hosted two public meeting opportunities on Wednesday, March 15 to learn more about this project and several permits under review. One was hosted online and the recording can be watched here, the other was hosted at the Kiawanda Community Center in Pacific City.​


  • Welcome and overview of public participation opportunities
  • Overview of undersea cables in Oregon, State agency regulations, and DSL's response to HB 2603
  • Overview of the easement application under review by DSL
  • Overview of the removal-fill application under review by DSL
  • Information on Oregon Parks and Recreation's ocean shore permitting process and upcoming public comment opportunties
  • Time for question and answers
  • Public comments on the easement application and removal-fill application

The public comment periods for the easement application and removal-fill permit application were open from March 3, 2023 - April 3, 2023, and are now closed.

How Does the Process Work?

​Before submitting their application for a territorial sea cable easement, applicants​ meet with DSL staff to discuss: ​
  • The proposed project, location in relation to waters of the state (including wetland delineation results), 
  • Permit exemptions that may apply, and type of permit that may be required. If a removal-fill permit is required, the purpose and need of the removal-fill activity, the range of alternatives, and proposed compensatory mitigation may be discussed. 
  • Applicants are encouraged to meet with community members, industry, and ocean user groups to discuss use conflicts and other issues related to undersea cable installment. 
  • ​DSL also encourages applicants to meet with other State regulatory agencies to discuss permitting requirements or relevant regulations. 

Learn more about waterway authorizations (including, in the territorial sea) and removal-fill permits here.​​​​​​​​​​​

When an application for either an easement and/or a removal-fill permit is submitted, DSL first reviews the application(s) for completeness. 

Applications determined to be complete are circulated for public review and comment. DSL staff then reviews comments submitted and may request additional information from the applicant or require modifications. 

Finally, DSL staff develop a recommendation and findings for the removal-fill permit, and the program Manager conducts a final review whether to approve or deny the removal-fill permit. DSL also develops a recommendation to the Land Board regarding the easement, and the Land Board decides whether to approve or deny the easement.​​

​The Department of State Lands oversees the approvals re​quired for territorial sea cable easements and a removal-fill permits. 

However, there are several other approvals that are ​required for the overall project, f​​​or example:

  • Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD): The ocean shore from the vegetated ocean shore edge to the extreme low tide elevation is managed by OPRD. ​An ocean shore alteration permit is also required from OPRD​, and that permitting process includes a public review and comment opportunity. ​​
  • Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ): Projects may require a Nationwide 401 Water Quality Certification​.
  • Department of Land and Conservation Development (DLCD): The activity occurs within the Coastal Management Zone (CMZ), and DLCD reviews​ the project for federal consistency.
  • Local county and/or city government approval is required for any proposed activities in upland areas above the beach vegetation line. For example, installation of the cable between the vegetation line and a landing site.​​

Oregon's territorial sea is a 3 mile wide strip of ocean under state jurisdiction that reaches from the shoreline out to sea. This area and the resources within it are managed by state and federal agencies in trust for the public. First adopted in 1994, the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) outlines goals and policies that provide a coordination framework and agency guide to managing resources within the territorial sea. 

Since its adoption, the plan has been updated as new needs evolve for use of the ocean. Needs such as installing undersea cables and marine renewable energy development.  The Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) acts as the steward of the plan, alongside DLCD. Learn more about the plan and the OPAC here.​


Cait McCusker
Public Engagement Officer

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