Chile denies more water rights for 2,750-MW Aysen complex

Chile’s water regulator has denied a request by Centrales Hidroelectricas de Aysen S.A. (HidroAysen) for additional water rights that would enable the developer to reduce the area to be inundated by the proposed five-plant, 2,750-MW Aysen hydroelectric complex.

Business News Americas reported that Direccion General de Aguas (DGA) said the requested water rights for an additional 200 cubic meters per second were not compatible with other rights Spain’s Endesa was awarded in the 1990s. HidroAysen is a joint venture of utilities Endesa Chile and Colbun.

The US$3.2 billion HidroAysen project, named for Aysen, the southern region where it would be built, would involve building five plants to harness two of Chile’s most abundant rivers. Developers submitted an environmental impact assessment for the megaproject in August, but Chile Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman said in October 22 the government needed more information to complete its evaluation. (HNN 10/27/08)

While HidroAysen has water rights for the Baker and Pascua rivers to be used for the project, the required water rights, and project costs, increased when it decided to reduce the area to be inundated. HidroAysen said the consortium reduced the amount of territory to be inundated by the projects to an absolute minimum as it moved to limit the impact on the environment. (HNN 2/18/08)

The complex includes two power plants on the Baker River, 600-MW Baker 1 and 360-MW Baker 2, and three plants on the Pascua River, 460-MW Pascua 1, 770-MW Pascua 2.1, and 500-MW Pascua 2.2. Developers hope to start construction by the end of 2009 about 1,000 miles south of Santiago.

A HidroAysen spokesman said DGA could legally reconsider its ruling and that the developer was evaluating its options.

Previously, Chile’s forestry agency, Corporacion Nacional Forestal (Conaf), said the project was incompatible with existing laws. HidroAysen has said it would wait to receive observations from the total of 36 reviewing agencies before commenting further.

Despite environmentalist objections, Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman said Chile needs to develop its hydro resources in the south, to reduce dependence on imported fuel, cut carbon emissions, and to balance hydro resources in the north, where it rains rains at the opposite time of year.

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