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NEWS: HidroAysen transmission lines would traverse wetlands, national parks and more

Earlier this week, 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.”

Today, a Natural Resources Defense Council blog notes, “Although there is very little new information in the route – this narrow country offers only so many options – the map of the line illustrates the numerous geographic, technical and human challenges to the line.”

The blog highlights:

– This transmission line would be 1,912 kilometres long. …It would be one of the longest transmission lines in the world.

– The transmission line would cross seven of Chile’s fifteen regions, including national parks, private protected areas, priority conservation sites, wetlands and indigenous communities. It would traverse mountains, run around volcanoes and cross fault lines in Chile’s earthquake-prone areas.

– A 70 metre wide service lane would be cut underneath the line, potentially fragmenting critical habitat for endemic species, and requiring consistent maintenance. The company will have to raze about 101 hectares of forest and ‘prune’ about 607 hectares more during the construction of the line.

– The line would require 1,500 – 1,700 towers, each around 50 metres high.

The Santiago Times article adds, “Endesa and Colbún plan to submit the proposed route for evaluation to the Environmental Assessment Service in March 2012.”

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…”

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 early-2012. We are also planning a fact-finding mission to Chile, tentatively scheduled for early-2012.

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