Subsea cable operator objects to FERC license for 600-kW Admiralty Inlet tidal project

Pacific Crossing, owner of PC-1, a subsea telecommunications cable linking the United States and Japan, is objecting to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of a pilot project license for the 600-kW Admiralty Inlet Pilot tidal project to be installed near PC-1 in Washington’s Puget Sound.

FERC issued the hydrokinetic pilot project license (No. 12690) on March 20, concluding the project would not pose a risk to the undersea fiber-optic communication cable, which is located 170 meters from the project site.

“It is disappointing that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a pilot license for an experimental tidal energy project in Admiralty Inlet despite objections from Native Americans, environmentalists and Pacific Crossing,” the company’s chief financial officer, Kurt Johnson, said. “FERC’s license approves the placement of two 425-ton turbines dangerously close to PC-1, a major international telecommunications cable, and poses a serious threat to PC-1.”

Johnson said Pacific Crossing is reviewing the FERC order and considering its options. As a party to the case, the company could ask FERC for an order on rehearing.

“FERC made an ill-advised decision to move forward on this project ignoring both available submarine cable separation guidance and ongoing Federal Communications Commission advisory committee work on standardized cable separation in favor of an arbitrary separation approach,” Johnson said. “We urge the Department of Energy to avoid this same error as it considers finalizing a federal grant for this project.”

The Department of Energy awarded $10 million to the $20 million Admiralty Inlet project in 2010.

FERC’s licensing order spends 15 pages addressing Pacific Crossing’s objections. FERC said the license includes safeguards and monitoring that should adequately protect the PC-1 cable as well as fish and wildlife that are a concern of Indian tribes.

Rather than ignoring the FCC’s views on submarine cable separation, the FERC order notes the FCC submitted a letter to FERC in 2012 saying it does not oppose licensing of Admiralty Inlet at a minimum separation from PC-1 of 170 meters as long as FERC determines the project does not present material risk to PC-1 and FERC is able to ensure that licensee Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1 adheres to safety and separation requirements.

Snohomish PUD filed an application in 2012 for Admiralty Inlet to be developed in Kitsap County, Wash. Snohomish plans to deploy, operate, monitor, and evaluate two 10-meter-diameter Open-Centre Turbines, developed and manufactured by OpenHydro Group Ltd.

The 10-year pilot project license allows Snohomish to study, monitor and evaluate the environmental, economic and cultural effects of the hydrokinetic project.

The license requires Snohomish to implement acoustic, sea floor, near-turbine and marine mammal monitoring plans. It also requires project and public safety, navigation, and emergency shutdown plans. It requires development of a project removal plan including procedures to remove project works and restore the area at the end of the license unless Snohomish obtains a new license.


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