Work resumes on Santa Cruz hydros

By
Monday, December 18, 2017

Work has restarted on the Cóndor Cliff and Barrancosa hydro projects in southern Argentina's Santa Cruz province in the midst of a legal limbo.

Electroingeniería VP Gerardo Ferreyra announced on Twitter that construction of the hydroelectric dams on the Santa Cruz river has resumed. The works had been paralyzed following years of judicial delays over environmental concerns.

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The supreme court had halted construction in December last year, asking the government for a new hearing and environmental impact report. In September this year, with both these steps complete, the energy and environment ministries officially approved the resumption of construction pending the court's final decision.

The supreme court is yet to rule on a demand that the studies be declared void following a request from environmental group Banco de Bosques, as part of a coalition of NGOs.

With the supreme court's final ruling yet to be announced, Ferreyra's tweet came as a surprise. Alongside a video showing earth-moving machinery at work, he wrote: "In the immense southern Patagonian desert, following two years of suspension, the first large-scale machines have begun to work on the diversion of the Santa Cruz river to build the southernmost hydroelectric plant in the world: Cóndor Cliff."

Banco de Bosques told BNamericas that they "believe that until the legal proceedings are completed, a precautionary principle should prevail, especially after the public hearing in the national congress, where evidence concerning the connection between the [Cóndor Cliff] dam and lake Argentino was submitted, and due to the lack of studies on the impact of the dams on the 1,089 glaciers located in the southern Patagonian ice field."

In 2013, a consortium formed by Electroingeniería, China Gezhouba Group Corporation and Hidrocuyo won the tender for construction of the dams.

The federal government has been pushing hard to continue construction as the US$4.7bn project, largely financed by China Development Bank, is seen as crucial for the completion of other China-financed projects.

In October, the energy ministry sent Electroingeniería a "work order authorization," a formality aimed at speeding up the resumption of the works once the court gives its ruling but that did not immediately give the green light to restart the project.

As part of the revisions, the government scaled back the dams' capacity from 1.74MW to 1.31MW.

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Santa Fe province has opened a test center for wind generators in the town of Las Parejas.

Provincial energy secretary Verónica Geese said the center was "the only test tower in the country and will allow any manufacturer from Argentina to analyze the operation of their wind generators. The structure has a system that allows you to mount a generator without using a crane."