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MENDOZA.- The novel for the expected construction of “the work of the century” maintains its uncertain ending. The historic project the Portezuelo del Viento mega-hydroelectric plant, that is intended to be raised in Malargüe, in the south of Mendoza, is far from materializing, even with the international tender about to be awarded, since the expectations of the presidential award requested by Mendoza for the next few hours are fading, as he learned THE NATION of sources of the Casa Rosada.

This, after the radical governor Rodolfo Suarez presented a few days ago “soon dispatch” for what Alberto Fernandez is issued, a term that expires today. However, yesterday at the Casa Rosada they made an evaluation of that presentation and responded in writing to the Cuyo province with a surprising message: they never formally made the request to start the arbitration award instance.

“There is no petition in accordance with the law, with the evidence that it intends to use. There are four provinces here that told him that without an impact study there is no work; and before an award there are other requirements, which were established in Act No. 73 of the Coirco Government Council (Interjurisdictional Committee of the Colorado River)”, they explained from the national government. Under this new scenario, regarding the deadlines that are beginning to run, article 29 of the Coirco Statute establishes: “The arbitrator will have 30 days to gather information and background information, and to carry out any diligence he deems necessary to better provide. Once said term has expired, it must laud within the following 30 days, being able to extend the terms within the following 30 days, by means of a well-founded decision.

Mendoza presented the project in 2020
Mendoza presented the project in 2020Marcelo Aguilar – THE NATION

Thus, everything indicates that the President, in keeping with his consideration in the middle of 2020, will not make an immediate and It is speculated that, once Mendoza formalizes the request for an award, he will request to continue with the initiative, but on the condition that a new environmental impact report is carried out. over the entire Colorado River basin, which goes against Mendoza’s interests and represents a nod to the wishes, mainly, of La Pampa, who rejects the work.

Attentive to the new extension of terms that this would entail -even without knowing yesterday’s answer-, and in the face of a possible future bid in court, in the Government of Suarez they began days ago with the movements to think of a “Plan B” and allocate the funds to other water infrastructures, where the other provinces that make up Coirco (La Pampa, Buenos Aires, Río Negro and Neuquén) do not intercede, which have also objected to the lack of comprehensive environmental impact analysis. Firstly, a hydroelectric project in San Rafael called El Baqueano appears on the scene, which is smaller than Portezuelo, among another group of works to be developed every five years.

This bid with the other jurisdictions, mainly with La Pampa, motivated the reaction of the entire Mendoza political arc. In this sense, not only Suarez and the former governor Alfredo Cornejo opened the umbrella with alternative works, but historical local leaders, such as the former senator Ernest Sanz and the former president Julio Cobos, insist that Portezuelo del Viento must be carried out and asked their co-religionists for greater strength in the claims before the Casa Rosada. The same is claimed by the mayor of Malargüe and the businessmen who hope to participate in the work.

The Mendoza governor, Rodolfo Suarez, bets on the project to multiply the energy supply in the region
The Mendoza governor, Rodolfo Suarez, bets on the project to multiply the energy supply in the region

In the middle, the camper national senator also appeared on the scene Anabel Fernandez Sagasti, who launched his darts at the main radical leaders, especially through social networks. “More management and less show. Portezuelo must be specified. I remain at the governor’s disposal. I don’t change my mind. The problem is that those who change are Suarez and Cornejo. While they look for “plans B”, they do not explain the lack of management that delays the work”, the main sword of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was dispatched in the National Congress.

Faced with this uncertain scenario, Suarez and Cornejo take refuge in the Mauricio Macri’s presidential award in 2018 where it was stipulated that the money from Portezuelo, product of the damages of the industrial promotion, can also be used for other hydroelectric projects in the province. In this case, as the project is in the bidding stage without an award, both leaders prefer to lean towards other alternatives and stop wasting time, in order to also avoid legal consequences with Malal-hue, the only conglomerate of firms that seeks to keep the dream mega-plant. This is the Chinese company Sinohydro Corporation together with the local firms Impsa, Ceosa and Obras Andinas. In fact, the specifications stipulate that the work can be canceled before being awarded. In this train, the Mendoza State Attorney’s Office also seeks to shield the province with indemnity clauses if the bidding finally continues its course, something that at this time seems distant, and even if after advancing, it falls.

Meanwhile, the Pampas are pressing for the historic work to be completely stopped, considering that it is “unnecessary” due to the low flow of the Rio Grande, the main tributary of the Colorado, while insisting on carrying out a comprehensive hydrological study of the entire basin. Thus, this last claim is gaining more and more strength in the national government.

Meanwhile, the Mendoza Executive continues to receive disbursements from the Nation for the work, which has a budget of 1,023 million dollars. At the end of October, Mendoza received the ninth installment of the funds, which are deposited in a trust and will be used for the construction of the hydroelectric dam. On January 28, a new deposit must be made for more than 52 million dollars.

“We are facing a historic moment in the province with that money and on my part they are going to find the greatest prudence and not make any mistakes with that money,” were the last words of Suarez, attentive to the possible demands that may arise from the possible winner if later the work falls. At the same time, it opened the possibility for the funds to be used for other hydroelectric projects. Suarez is on vacation these days. In his place is Lieutenant Governor Mario Abed. In dialogue with THE NATION, the official assured that they are waiting for the resolution that the president takes after the prompt dispatch and that the decision will be submitted to the analysis of specialists to determine the steps to follow.

After decades of waiting for definitions, the work was approved in 2016 by the provinces of Coirco, with the sole opposition of La Pampa, which led Mendoza to request the award of then President Macri, who in 2018 ruled in favor of advancing the project. , signing the agreement in June 2019, which made it clear that the funds could be used for other hydroelectric works.

Portezuelo del Viento has an execution period of five years and is committed to achieving an installed capacity of 210 MW, capable of supplying energy to 130,000 users, four times more than what is generated by the Potrerillos dam, which is today the largest in Mendoza. The work, scheduled to begin this year, will give work to 10,000 people, according to estimates in the Government of Mendoza. A series of related works are projected around the dam. Not only the relocation of Las Loicas; also, the extensions of national route 145 and provincial route 226, the construction of a machine room and the power lines to connect the dam with the national interconnected system.

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