On-again/off-again Ralco may be on again
Ten years ago, Nicolasa Quintreman was surprised to see energy executives knocking on the door of her modest home, located in the community of Ralco-Lepoy on the banks of Chile’s Bio Bio River.
Ever since, Quintreman, a Pehuenche—one of the indigenous peoples of southern Chile—has lead a longshot campaign by 10 Indian families to stop plans for a series of hydro-electric dams on their river lands.
Her effort is now entering a critical phase.
Spanish-owned Endesa Chile, this country’s largest electric utility, announced last month that it had suspended work on the $568 million Ralco dam, the key piece in the company’s original plan for a network of six dams on the Bio Bio. Endesa has been operating the first of those dams, the Pangue, since 1997.
The Endesa move came one day after the Chilean Comptroller General’s office, which reviews the legal and financial aspects of government actions, had denied approval of two decrees granting Endesa concessions for Ralco’s generator and transmission lines.