Construction set to begin for world’s longest subsea cable

  • Oct 13, 2021
  • Times Standard

Contractors with RTI infrastructure recently arrived in Humboldt County to begin constructing the world’s longest subsea fiber optic cable. Stretching from Eureka to Singapore, the 10,000-mile-long cable will bring enhanced broadband connectivity to Humboldt County and beyond as soon as 2023.

The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved RTI’s project application in July. Contractors will install four steel pipes extending from a landing site on the Samoa peninsula approximately 3,600 feet offshore to serve as conduits for up to four submarine fiber optic cables. The cables will span the Pacific Ocean and ultimately terminate in Singapore and Taiwan. Additional cables may extend to Australia and Japan as well.

“For the last few weeks, they’ve been on our property doing directional boring to get the project started,” said Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District executive director Larry Oetker, describing a drilling technique designed for installing underground cables and pipes with minimal disturbance to the surface above. “From the former Samoa Pulp Mill site they have directional bores going out into the Pacific Ocean approximately 1.2 miles at about 50-feet under the bottom of the ocean.”

The big red ship you may have noticed in Humboldt Bay will pull the lines from the on-shore conduits out into the ocean, Oetker said.

“Where it connects to the pipe at 1.2 miles out, the ship has a big plow on the bottom of it and it plows the bottom of the ocean floor and buries the cable about five feet deep under the ocean for about 30 miles offshore,” he said. “The reason why the cables are entirely buried under the ocean floor for the first 30 miles is to avoid any impacts to the commercial and recreational fishing industry. We’re just about ready to get into crab season and crab pots and trawling fisheries could potentially snag on the cable. Since it’s buried there shouldn’t be any impacts on fisheries.”

Oetker could not say when the project would be completed in its entirety but RTI contractors will likely finish up construction on the North Coast by the end of the month.

With the construction of a new data center already underway in Arcata that will run another cable east to the U.S. Interstate 5 corridor, Oetker said Humboldt County, once known for poor internet access, will soon become a national data hub.

“This is really huge for our region and most people probably won’t even notice that anything has happened,” he said. “The private sector, financial institutions and internet companies will really be able to take advantage of this high speed and direct connectivity to the Pacific Ocean out to Asia and also going east to the rest of the country. We probably will be a data hub for the United States.”

Oetker added that the harbor district is working toward “a 21st-century economy.”

“We’re focused on broadband, sustainable aquaculture with Nordic Aquafarms and then the offshore wind industry,” he said. “We really believe that these will help set the stage for the future industries well into the next 40 to 50 years.”

Isabella Vanderheiden can be reached at 707-441-0504.