Canada Pension Plan

Chilean tourism industry ready to battle Canadian investment

Julie Sutor
The Santiago Times
August 7, 2008

In a recent story, Óscar Santelices, the director of Chile’s tourism bureau, SERNATUR, expressed concerns that the HidroAysén hydro electric project in Patagonia may hurt the region’s tourism business. He also said that he has expressed these concerns to the developers of the project.

Both the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation have invested more than $500-million in the power utilitly Transelec to build the transmission lines.

“We have let them know our points of view and that they need to take heed,” Santelices said. “Obviously, we are going to maintain our position on issues related to the landscape and tourism.

“What if tourism is compromised in the face of energy needs? I don’t want to throw out opinions now, but you saw what happened in San Pedro, where we made our position clear: The project was rejected, and the company had to reel it back in and make it better,” he said, referring to Colbún’s San Pedro hydroelectric plant.

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Go to Probe International’s section on Patagonia


TRANSELEC POWER LINES WORRY CHILE TOURISM BUREAU

Transmission Lines from Proposed Dams May Tarnish Patagonia

Óscar Santelices, director of Chile’s tourism bureau, SERNATUR, said this week that the nation’s tourism industry is worried about potential negative effects of the HidroAysén dam project slated for southern Chile.

If the energy project is approved by Chile’s environmental authorities, it would require gargantuan power lines that would stretch 1,200 miles northward from dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers in Region XI (Aysén) to mostly industrial and mining clients in Chile’s central valley. The transmission lines would cross 65 communities in 9 regions, suspended 70 meters above the ground by some 5,000 towers. Spanish/Italian-owned Endesa would build the dams, while the transmission line project would be carried out by Canada-based Transelec.

The HidroAysén dam project would comprise five massive dams capable of generating 2,750 MW for the country’s electricity supply.

“We have to fully understand this project in terms of the places it will impact,” Santelices said of the proposed transmission lines. “It’s problematic if it passes over Cerro Castillo, or other important locations.”

Cerro Castillo, a natural reserve south of Coyhaique, features some of Chile’s most prized rivers, forests, wildlife and mountains.

Santelices noted that tourism concerns sent giant energy firm Colbún back to the drawing board on a proposed hydroelectric project in Region XIV (Los Ríos). He also said SERNATUR has met with Transelec officials to warn them about similar concerns in the HidroAysén case.

“We have let them know our points of view and that they need to take heed,” he said. “Obviously, we are going to maintain our position on issues related to the landscape and tourism.

“What if tourism is compromised in the face of energy needs? I don’t want to throw out opinions now, but you saw what happened in San Pedro, where we made our position clear: The project was rejected, and the company had to reel it back in and make it better,” he said, referring to Colbún’s San Pedro hydroelectric plant.

SERNATUR rejected the San Pedro project’s environmental impact study, asking the company to consider direct impacts to the tourism sector – the main opportunity for development in Panguipulli.

Like the case in San Pedro, as well as four geothermal electric projects near Punta de Choros (Region IV), Santelices estimated that the real problem is inadequate planning to avoid conflicts between energy and other sectors.

“This is a very important issue and specific tourism legislation could be of help,” he said. “We need to determine how all these various economic activities can coexist. The same thing is happening now in the Magallanes Region with aquaculture.”

Independent Democratic Union (UDI) Dep. Carlos Recondo, who together with Santelices, has pushed for such tourism legislation, said the Transelec situation would be different if such laws existed.

“Any development project that could affect these natural areas would have to pass through a discussion within the tourism sector: Public organizations and relevant government bodies would have to issue an impact analysis,” Recondo said.

SOURCE: LA NACIÓN
By Julie Sutor

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