HidroAysén's Transmission Line Revealed

Berklee Lowrey-Evans
One of the beautiful lakes in Patagonia along the Carretera Austral, on the way to Cochrane
One of the beautiful lakes in Patagonia along the Carretera Austral, on the way to Cochrane
Berklee Lowrey-Evans, March 2011

The first official news of the proposed route for the HidroAysén transmission line was released yesterday by Chile's La Tercera. Over the next two weeks, the company will begin meeting with residents of Chaitén and Cochrane to discuss the route and - no doubt - HidroAysen's plans to snatch the lands and/or the rights to build the lines through these areas.

The reported rumors of a change in route are true - the transmission line is indeed planned to go underwater for 160km of the full 1,912 km length of the line, from the mouth of the Río Yelcho near Chaitén to Puerto Montt. This means that the line will not cut through Parque Pumalín, which has been a contentious issue for many years.

HidroAysén is back to claiming that the transmission line would only cost US$3.8 billion. They're still on track to submit the EIA in March 2012, and expect it to take 2 years to get approval. However, if the EIA process for the dams is any indication, the transmission line EIA could take quite a bit longer, since it will affect thousands more people and cross through about half the country.

They're also hoping to build between 1,500-1,700 towers, each about 65 meters high, between Chaitén and Cochrane. This means that there would be a tower every 350-425 meters! Check out this interactive graphic to see how tall 65 meters is in relation to a person.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of PR campaign HidroAysén will launch to make it look like they actually care about the people they'll be (mis)leading through this process. I know that my Chilean colleagues are already hard at work, providing facts to these communities on what the company is really trying to do, and informing them of their rights to protect themselves, their land, and their families from the upcoming onslaught of fear and intimidation to "sell out now, or risk getting nothing!" - just like they've been doing to the families who would be affected by the dams. And so the next phase in this campaign begins . . .

More information: 

Santiago Times article from Dec 7, 2011.