The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) issued an ocean shore alteration permit to Edge Cable Holdings, Inc. on March 26, 2019. The permit expires on March 26, 2021 and allows the company to install a telecommunications cable beneath the ocean shore. The company intended to bore a hole beneath the shore, starting on a private parcel in the unincorporated community of Tierra del Mar and drilling under the ocean shore to a point offshore where it will emerge from the seafloor. The operation involved using a steel drill, a clay-based lubricating fluid, and associated underground equipment to guide the drill bit along a set course.
In addition to an ocean shore alteration permit, the project required permission from other public agencies, including the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL). DSL has jurisdiction over a portion of the Oregon seabed west of the low tide line.
On April 28, 2020, the drill pipe broke and drilling operations stopped. OPRD was informed of the malfunction on June 17. This material is still under the seabed, and some portion (the end of the drill pipe and some of the drilling fluid) is under the ocean shore:
- ~1,100 feet of 5-7/8-inch (outer dimension) drill pipe.
- 10-5/8-inch diameter carbide drill tip.
- ParaTrack Gyro Module.
- ParaTrack Steering Tool.
- 6,500 to 6,700 gallons of drilling fluid containing Super Gel-X®, Platinum D-D, and Wyo-Vis DP among other substances (note: this was originally reported as possibly some combination of Bore-Gel, Quick-Bore and Pac-LE; the description has been updated following receipt of a hazard assessment report).
According to DSL, when the drill equipment was removed from the bore hole without notice or discussion, the opportunity to fully evaluate recovery options was lost.
The ocean shore alteration permit requires the permittee to contact OPRD if any drilling lubricating fluid is released to the ocean shore. Based on the information currently available, no fluid was released on or under the ocean shore, and it doesn't appear the permittee was required to contact OPRD when the equipment malfunctioned.
OPRD sent the permittee a letter July 16, 2020 explaining the steps they must take before being allowed to resume operations under their ocean shore permit. The letter is linked in full below, but in part it requires Edge to:
- Verify the permits and agreements with other government agencies, including DSL, are still valid.
- Submit an independent hazard analysis evaluating the possible economic, scenic, and recreational effects of leaving this equipment under the ocean shore.
These requirements enforce the original permit conditions and are designed to protect the ocean shore. Facebook provided an independent hazard analysis, which OPRD has reviewed and commented on, requesting additional information, which was also provided.
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Updates (oldest at the top, more or less):
The ocean shore permit
- Documents from the Department of State Lands, including a notice of default to the permittee
A diagram provided by the permittee showing the location of drilling equipment
Material Safety Data Sheets for the material under the ocean shore or seabed
July 16 Letter from OPRD to the permittee
- Correspondence from concerned people
- Story in the Oregonian August 13 (subscription required) and Willamette Week August 19 and the Associated Press August 20. We won't link to all news coverage.
- August 13 Letter from OPRD to the permittee
- August 25 Permittee response to OPRD with addendum by OPRD
- August 31 Independent hazard assessment report provided by Facebook. This report has not yet been accepted by OPRD as final.
- October 2 response from OPRD to Facebook related to independent hazard assessment report. We posed clarifying questions and originally requested a response by October 16, but have extended that to October 21 to provide the applicant enough time to have their response independently reviewed before submitting it.
- October 21 response from Facebook's contractor to OPRD's questions. We reviewed this.
- We issued a related scientific research permit (old version -- see UPDATE below) on October 26 so the applicant could gather data about geological features under the ocean shore. Issuing this research permit (we issue them regularly across the ocean shore and state park system) does not speak to status of their existing ocean shore permit. The work will happen over an estimated five day period between November 2 and December 1, 2020. Due to winter weather and the related safety concerns, the scientific research permit expiration date was pushed back to December 15.
- We have accepted as complete the information Facebook submitted regarding the
April equipment malfunction involving Ocean Shore Permit 2900-18. The
independent and peer-reviewed hazard analysis, together with the follow-up responses, fulfill the
information request OPRD made on July 16. This letter, sent by the Oregon Department of
Justice on November 9, explains further. To fulfill the conditions of their ocean shore
permit, we required an updated emergency plan and have posted it below
- Here are copies of the emergency response plan, drill break avoidance and response plans (UPDATED 1/15/2021), geophysical survey, and construction plan (UPDATED 1/15/2021). The applicant updated these documents after we reviewed them for compliance with the ocean shore permit and requested changes.
- A document comparing the 2021 project to 2020, provided by the applicant.
- March 10, 2021: the ocean shore permit expiration date was extended from March 26, 2021 to March 26, 2022. While the drilling portion of the project is complete, the telecommunications cable has not yet been installed under the ocean shore. Extending the expiration date of the permit ensures its conditions continue to protect the ocean shore until the portion of the project under the beach is completed.
- April 1, 2021: Tierra del Mar residents noted a sinkhole developing at the eastern edge of the ocean shore next to Lot 3200, where work on the underground cable is based. State park staff went to the site and marked it with caution tape. At the time, the hole was ~3-4’ wide and ~5-6’ deep, and right at the edge of the vegetation. Later in the morning April 2, OPRD contacted the permittee, who will fill in the hole with nearby sand. The hole was likely caused by removing the outer casing that surrounded the drill pipe. The outer diameter of the casing was 18”, and the resulting conduit is about 6” in diameter. (April 5: the actual cause of the hole has not been determined). The permittee filled the hole with sand, and will watch for any new ones to fill them in.
- April 12, 2021: sinkhole update. OPRD issued a research permit, separate from their ocean shore permit, allowing the applicant to use a ground penetrating radar (GPR) unit on a 335x65' area west of Lot 3200 to detect whether any voids exist under the beach. The permit is in effect from April 12-15. Read the permit. Update May 19, 2021: the applicant reports "the GPR survey unexpectedly did not extend upland onto [Lot] 3200 and did not capture the level of detail desired for the survey.” As a result, the applicant will return to the beach on May 20 to conduct a second survey using Electrical Resistivity Tomography. Read the permit. Update July 2: we have received a report on their survey searching for voids along the path of the cable under the beach. It says "There were no significant anomalies detected within the resolution limits of the ... surveys that would indicate potential voids, cavities, or sinkhole features of concern along the survey lines relating to the HDD activities." Read the report