2004 article about CenturyTel (now CenturyLink) laying fiber optic cable to the islands
Editor's Note: To give readers an idea of what is involved in replacing an underwater fiber optic cable, I've reposted this article from October 4, 2014.
originally posted 10/04/04
At 11 a.m. this morning (October 4, 2004), after more than five years of planning by CenturyTel engineers of Gig Harbor, construction of fiber optic cable loop begins at Washington Park in Anacortes, to the CenturyTel office on Lopez Island. The total project cost is estimated at $2.3 million.
CenturyTel initiated the proposed fiber project for the following purposes:
Enhance and supplement existing telephone and internet service to the San Juan Islands, which currently rely on leased cable from Bonneville Power (BPA).
Increase the capacity for telephone and internet service to the San Juan Islands as this leased system is only a temporary remedy to meet customer need.
Complete network of fiber optic cable in the San Juan Islands, which will eventually provide continuous, uninterrupted service to island customers in the event this portion of the system is accidentally damaged. This installation builds duplicity and additional capacity into the current system.
Joe Gannon, Project Manager, Pirelli High Voltage Systems & Submarine Group, maker of the Hydroplow V, the device which will lay the cable near-shoreline, will be on scene Monday morning. The hydroplow will be brought ashore to the +4 watermark. A transition pit at the end of the conduit will be dug out and the cable pulled ashore routed through this conduit, then anchored and then loaded into the plow. When the tide is high, the plow begins the cable-lay operation to a minus 100 foot depth.
Representative Jeff Morris (D-40) was the chief proponent and key advocate of the project, according to CenturyTel. The project extends for 12.3 miles. About 5.6 miles of the cable will be on land and about 6.6 miles will be submarine. The project is divided into five major segments, as summarized below:
|Date||Project Segment||Miles||Feet||Cable Install Methods|
|In Place||Anacortes||.8||4,200||Open trench, directional bore|
|Oct 4-Oct 6||Rosario Strait (marine)||4.6||24,500||Hydroplow, seabed lay, possibly hand-jetting|
|In Place||Decatur Island (terrestrial)||1.8||9,500||Open trench, directional bore|
|Sept 20-22||Lopez Sound (marine)||2.0||10,500||Hydroplow V|
|In Place||Lopez Island (terrestrial)||3.0||16,000||Open trench, directional bore|
Installation spanning Rosario Straits and Lopez Sound culmination of four-year planning effort
The hydroplow is designed to install 1.5 diameter fiber optic cable.
A hydroplow stuck in eight feet of mud and a conduit too small for a cable, were relatively easy problems to solve during CenturyTel's fiber optic cable loop project. Navigating through the state government was more problematic. It took five years and help from state Rep. Jeff Morris (40th-D) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) before the cable could be laid between Anacortes and Lopez Island.
When CenturyTel Manager of Government Relations Don Dennis began working on the project, the state Dept. of Natural Resources wasn't routinely issuing ermits to lay marine cables. "We hit a stonewall," he said. "Some individuals were ready to give up."
Morris said, when DNR did approve permits, the cost was exorbitant - in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Morris worked to make the system fair and certain and the fees fair and equitable. "Once the bill passed, there was a big rush (for permits)." he said.
The cable loop project allows CenturyTel to increase capacity for telephone and internet service in the San Juan Islands. The phone company has been leasing fiber optic cable from Bonneville. With the completion of its own fiber optic network, CenturyTel will be able to enhance and supplement existing telephone and internet service.
The installation of the last segment of the $2.5 million project, began Monday, Oct. 4, 2004 in Washington Park in Anacortes. The international cable construction company, Pirelli-Jacobson brought together a variety of equipment including its proprietary mechanical device - the hydroplow. Joe Gannon, Pirelli project manager likened the project to a "symphony of dozens of construction equipment." The blue barge was covered with equipment to meet with any contingency.
When the hydroplow was mired in 8 feet of mud, divers attached a rope and a crane lifted the vehicle out of the water. The barge was moved closer to shore, the hydroplow was lowered. A backhoe in the park pwas used to pull the hydroplow forward.
The hydroplow works similarly to a horse-drawn plow tilling ground prior to planting seeds. The hydroplow uses a series of water jets on the leading edge of the plow to liquefy the soil/sand. With the resistance to the blade minimized, a 4-inch wide blade slices through the seabed and the cable is installed. The soil/sand collapses back onto the cable.
Divers move eelgrass back into place. The eelgrass will be monitored and mitigation would be required if there is a loss of eelgrass.
To connect the cable to CenturyTel's equipment in Washington Park, a directional bore was used to place conduit underground. Unfortunately a two-inch conduit was installed rather than a four-inch one. Crews peeled back the outermost layer of armor from the cable in order to make it small enough to fit in the conduit.
*Left to right): Project Engineer Dennis Colby, Rep. Jeff Morris, Manger of Government Relations Don Dennis and Manager of Plant Facilities Steve Densley took part in the groundbreaking ceremony.
On the left is the hose used for water, the fiber optic cable is to the right.
Computers, global positioning devices and a dynamic positioning system are some of the high-tech equipment used to lay cable.
The blue thrusters can hold the barge in place. They can be controlled by the computer or by joysticks.
Divers helmets are equipped with a helmet cam.
Some of the armor protecting the cable was removed in order to fit in the conduit.
The round floats show the position of the water hose and the umbilical cord, the other floats indicate the position of the cable.
The cable is expected to be operational by the end of October, 2004.
OLYMPIA - The San Juan Islands, Vashon Island and other areas across the state stand poised to take advantage of the most advanced features of the Internet under a bill approved by the Senate March 11, 2002.
"There is a desperate need for e-commerce, telemedicine and online education in the islands," said Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Anacortes) who sponsored the legislation. "I'm glad that we are finally getting government out of the way in extending these and other opportunities to people who live in the San Juans."
The bill, HB 1005, now heads to the Governor's desk for his signature.
The language in this bill is the result of a compromise negotiated by Morris, public utilities and representatives of the Department of Natural Resources.
During a hearing in the House Telecommunications, Technology and Energy Committee, a representative of Orcas Power and Light explained that although almost all of the San Juan Islands had been connected with broadband technology, they are not connected to the mainland.
Under the Department's original proposal, a submarine cable from Shaw to Orcas Island would have cost $800,000. Under the legislation the fee will be $20,000.
This bill also benefits residents of Vashon Island. According to testimony during the committee hearing, AT&T has an obligation to serve Vashon under their agreement with King County. After three years of negotiating with the Department of Natural Resources, they had still not been able to reach an agreement.
The bill sets the rates at which DNR can charge utilities to lay cable over state-owned aquatic land.
Rep. Jeff Morris, chairman of the House Telecommunications, Technology and Energy Committee represents the 40th Legislative District, which includes San Juan County and parts of Skagit and Whatcom counties. He was first elected in 1996.