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NEWS: HidroAysén transmission line route announced

The Santiago Times reports, “On Monday, executives from Endesa and Colbún, the energy companies behind the controversial HidroAysén hydroelectric project slated for Patagonia, presented their proposed route for power lines to transfer electricity from five dams in southern Chile north to the central Metropolitan Region.”

“The proposed route would run more than 1900 kilometres and would pass through around 800 private estates, requiring direct negotiations between HidroAysén and individual property owners. …In order to assuage concerns, Endesa and Colbún have designed the plan with 80 percent of power lines hidden either by camouflage or by running them behind mountains so that they’re not visible from roadways and inhabited areas. …The first stage of the power line route — a 660-kilometre stretch from Cochrane to Puerto Montt — will include 1,500 to 1,700 pylons, as well as 160 kilometres of underwater cable. …Still, the companies have confirmed that the proposed route will require them to raze almost 250 acres of forest and to prune almost 1,500 additional acres in order to construct the lines. …(And) the proposed route will will traverse the Carretera Austral (a 1200-kilometre highway that runs from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins through rural Patagonia).”

“Endesa and Colbún plan to submit the proposed route for evaluation to the Environmental Assessment Service in March 2012. Approval for the first phase of the broader project, the construction of the dams, was obtained in May 2011, despite wide protests and a number conflicts of interest. …(There is also a) current appeal that will be brought before the Chilean Supreme Court to prevent the project from moving forward.”

Transelec – the Chilean company believed most likely to build the transmission line – is controlled by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and the British Columbia Investment Management Corp. Dow Jones reports though that, “State Grid Corp. of China, the country’s near-monopoly power distributor, is interested in developing the nearly 2,000-kilometre transmission line for Chile’s massive HidroAysen hydrogeneration power project, daily newspaper El Mercurio reported… Company executives at State Grid recently met up with their counterparts at Endesa and Colbun and offered to finance and build HidroAysen’s transmission line, El Mercurio reported.”

In February 2008, the Council of Canadians began voicing its opposition to the proposed dams and transmission line. We are demanding that the involved Canadian pension funds reject involvement in the HidroAysén project. In May 2011, Maude Barlow stated, “Canadians support democracy, freedom of expression, and responsible environmental stewardship at home and around the world. But most Canadians have no idea that their pension plans are fuelling the kind of environmental destruction planned in Chile. In a global world, what can seem far away may be very close to home. Canadians must stand with the people of Chile in opposing this terrible project and condemning the undemocratic and violent actions of the state.” As noted in previous campaign blogs, the Council of Canadians has commissioned a report on the dams, the transmission lines and Canadian mining companies in Chile to be released in late-2011. We are also tentatively planning a fact-finding mission to Chile in early-2012.

For related blogs, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=HidroAysen.