Facebook’s New Oregon Coast Venture Angers Neighbors Left in the Dark: Steve Duin
By Steve Duin, The Oregonian
Jun 7, 2019
Tierra del Mar isn’t much of a destination, which has long been much of its charm.
It’s a desolate beach on the Oregon coast, three unincorporated miles upwind from Pacific City. Tierra del Mar doesn’t have cell-phone service, just eagles over the beach, owls in the dense woods, and residents who pay to keep the streetlights on along Sandlake Road.
They also consider their homes family heirlooms, which is why they’re pretty steamed at Facebook.
“In the middle of this serenity,” Lynnae Ruttledge says, “Facebook bought some property and decided to do some industrial drilling.”
Last October, Facebook – through its Edge Cable Holdings subsidiary – bought an undeveloped beachfront lot from former University of Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington for $495,000.
The $140-billion company then submitted applications to Tillamook County and the state to use that residential-zoned property as the eastern terminus for one of its trans-oceanic fiber-optic cables.
If the conditional-use permit is approved, Facebook says it will have drilling equipment in Tierra del Mar for up to 34 days. And unfortunately for Tierra del Mar, permitting for these submarine cables is cake in Oregon, compared to California.
The horizontal directional drilling operation will fashion a conduit 30-to-75 feet below the ground and 3,000 feet out to sea, where it will connect with the Jupiter cable system.
The State Land Board is good with all that. The county Planning Commission has yet to schedule a public hearing. Informing Facebook in April that its original permit application was incomplete, Sarah Absher, the county planning director, urged the company to consider “expanding” its argument that the dig is consistent with the Tillamook County Comprehensive Plan.
While Facebook left homeowners in the dark on site selection, it worked closely with the Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee, which has long negotiated safe passage for fiber-optic cables through coastal fishing grounds.
Scott McMullen, the OFCC’s executive director, said the committee recommended landing the cable on a small lake southeast of the community: “We never suggested it should be Tierra del Mar.”
While McMullen also says it’s clear Edge Cable will eventually bring a second cable to the neighborhood, he doesn’t understand the community’s vehement objections.