With its now habitual display of resources, HidroAysén has launched a new marketing campaign to convince us that the high voltage transmission line is practically invisible and will have no impacts nor effects. In this publicity phase, they will continue the usual marketing strategy in which the truth is secondary. Once again they resort to one-sided rhetoric, photographic tricks, and their "open houses."
Although we weren't invited, we wanted to responsibly check out what they were displaying, and so were given the kind attention of some of their functionaries and the hostile attention of their chief of communications. And the truth is, the effort that is made to once again minimize what we perceive is evident. Pretending that 50 to 60 meter tall towers, as much as they may try to hide them, will not be clearly visible is tantamount to trying to hide King Kong in a closet. And what we hear from those who will be most directly affected, they aren't convinced either. Why would we deny it if HidroAysén ends up being more 'convincing' in its role as 'Santa Claus' with people who have been waiting for decades for services and attention that the government should be delivering them or at least managing.
Below are some relevant aspects of this new campaign worth checking out:
The towers will be 60 to 70 meters tall and the transmission line will clear cut a 70 meter strip. This is not a myth dreamt up by the opposition as has been affirmed. It's worth recalling that these towers were predicted to be 70 meters tall during a presentation made in Coyhaique at the end of 2004 by Endesa engineers. The same meeting showed that SIC's electrical demand doubled every ten years due to the addition of new mining operations. (SIC is the Sistema Interconectado Central, Chile's central grid.) Witness to this was the engineer J. Montero who now appears on the scene as the technical manager of HidroAysén. Subsequently, it was manager E. Andrade of Transelec, a company who was carrying out a study for the transmission line, who reaffirmed that tower height. And later, in 2008, in the seminar "Energy in Patagonia," organized by the Puerto Varas Chamber of Tourism, in a packed auditorium in that city, Transelec managers again explained that the height would allow for fewer towers and that their height and the cleared path were necessary for security and operational reasons, all mentioned in the presence of the HidroAysén manager.
The matter is, as we have seen, HidroAysén decided to modify at its convenience the project that had taken Transelec, a specialist and expert in this area, more than four years of work. HidroAysén, in an effort to make the project more acceptable and more of an "eternal smile," decided to shrink the size of the towers a bit and dress up the transmission line's stripped-away path. Regarding this, now it's said that there will only be "selective pruning." The answer is given in part: it is explained that under the transmission line the respective property will not be permitted to have vegetation above four meters tall. How do they expect to install four transmission cables (at one time there were to be 2) if the forest is "getting in their way"? We'd like to note that the tallest trees that exist in the region, behind which the high voltage line could be hidden, are up to 35 meters tall and should be more than 300 years-old. In other words, planting trees to hide the line or pretending to hide it behind existing forest will at most hide the towers' shoes. Worse still, what is most likely is that the aeronautical authorities will demand that they make stretches of the line and its towers more visible for security reasons.
Other information that is offered but that makes no sense is that the transmission line will only be seen along 20 percent of the Carretera Austral, the country's longitudinal highway. According to my measurements, the stretch from the Pascua line to the central converter, just as the stretch from this converter to the Palvitad south of Chaitén, will be visible from that highway, around 60 percent of its length. And if we add other roads and tourist circuits (like those in Baker, Rio Paloma, El Fraile, Figueroa) that number climbs to more than 70 percent. I admit that there could be a margin of error of 10 percent, but 40 percent is a little much!
Regarding the claim that transmission line's path will not cut into any national parks, that too is incorrect. In fact, even the video they show says the path cuts through Corcovado National Park on the shores of Lago Yelcho. And if by cutting into we assume it will also affect the landscape, the path borders both parks for many kilometers, seriously intruding into them. Regarding national reserves, as much as it's denied that the path will cut through Lago Las Torres National Reserve, unfortunately it is done in plain site from the lake and the road that borders it, all an attack. Regarding the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, as much as they avoid the mountain of that name, the path is 20 kilometers away from it and is 20 kilometers away from a tourism sector with Rio Paloma, Lago Desierto and Lago Elizalde. In addition, it's worth remembering that one of the reasons this was declared a reserve was to protect the scenery, and that includes all of its surface and not just the front of Cerro Castillo. Also, at the very least, the path intrudes on the scenery of the Coyhaique, Mañihuales, Lago Carlota and Rosselot reserves and the Dos Lagunas Natural Monument.
If it's true that this high voltage transmission line (that implies some danger, right?) doesn't pass through any populated areas, it does border Río Tranquilo, Villa Ortega, Villa Frei, Mañihuales, Lago Verde, Santa Lucia and intrude on the vistas of La Tapera, Villa Amengual, Murta, Valle Simpson, Puerto Cárdenas, Las Juntas y Coyhaique (in one of the alternate routes).
As much as this publicity campaign does not promise anything legally binding, and with the recent submission of the environmental impact study, further details of this project will emerge, the continual discrediting of citizen participation by transmitting false and biased information evidently also affects the credibility of the company and official system, which are already sufficiently questionable.
Translation by Aleszu Bajak