A cable repair ship, the 72-metre IT Integrity, has been docked at the Port Alberni Port Authority’s Berth 2 since early July. Shaw Communications is working to bring a Google sub-sea cable ashore beside Canal (Beach) Waterfront Park; Shaw is building a facility on a plot of land above the Canal Beach upper parking lot.
The company undertaking the project was mum on the work being done, and wouldn’t confirm the IT Integrity’s role. “We can confirm a third party is building a sub-sea cable with a landing in Canada,” they said in a statement e-mailed to the Alberni Valley News. “Once more details are available in the coming months, we will share them.”
The IT Integrity came from Halifax, spending some time in Victoria before transiting up the Alberni Inlet to Port Alberni.
The project comprises a Topaz submarine fibre-optic cable system, according to details posted on a Government of Canada website. The proponent is listed as Google Canada. A main cable will be laid between Port Alberni, B.C. and two prefectures in Japan: Shima (Mie Prefecture) to the south and Takahagi (Ibaraki Prefecture) to the north.
A second cable will also be laid for future development, between Port Alberni and the headlands of Barkley Sound. The work is being done now to minimize disturbances on the nearshore, according to the government impact assessment.
The Topaz cable system extends from an existing telecommunications facility near Canal Beach and will follow the Alberni Inlet to the Pacific Ocean. The cable will lay on the surface of the inlet’s floor until Trevor Channel, where it will be buried at a depth of 100 metres using a towed plough cable burying machine. The cable will be surface laid when the water is deeper than 1500 metres.
A report by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada from June 2021 noted that the project is “not likely” to cause much damage to the environment. Indigenous knowledge and rights of Indigenous peoples were taken into account, according to the study, as was community knowledge of the area. Mitigation measures were put into place for a number of environmental considerations.
The City of Port Alberni noted at the end of July that work on the cable project is supposed to take up to 20 days. While parking and gate access may be affected, Canal Beach will remain open.
There is already a sub-sea cable extending from Port Alberni’s shoreline out into Barkley Sound. The city is home to NEPTUNE, an Ocean Networks Canada research facility that includes an 840-kilometre loop of fibre-optic cable on the sea floor that allows scientists, governments and the general public to see what’s happening on the ocean floor. It also provides data on tsunami wave action.