San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cariblanco Dam Progresses, Pacuare Loses Ground

WHILE more than 200 workers from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) completed work last week on a 6031- meter tunnel that will form part of the Cariblanco hydroelectric project near the north-central town of Sarapiqui, residents of Turrialba, a town on the Caribbean slope, voted against construction of a dam on the Pacuare River.The $170 million Cariblanco project will use waters from the Sarapiqui, Cariblanco, Quicuyal and María Aguilar rivers to produce 82.8 megawatts of power. Operation of the plant is expected to begin in 2007.President Abel Pacheco attended the completion of the tunnel Aug. 26 and sang the praises of ICE, which he said has had the “determination and vision to produce 98% of the electricity we consume by water, wind, sun and geothermic sources.” In another corner of the country, more than 10,000 area residents voted on Sunday against construction of the Pacuare hydroelectric dam, another ICE project, first publicized in the mid-1980s (TT, Sept. 19, 2003).The election, organized by the nonprofit conservation organization Grupo Amigos Pacuare, the Turrialba Municipality and area residents, resulted in 97% of votes against construction of the dam, and only 3% voting in favor, according to a preliminary count, said Eugenio Guido, coordinator of Grupo Amigos Pacuare.“It is interesting to note that people came (to vote) out of their own will. There were families who brought their children and grandchildren; more people showed up than for municipal elections,” he told The Tico Times.According to Guido, the next step is for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to divulge the official results of the election next week. After that the municipality will create a resolution, valid for 10 years, prohibiting the construction of hydroelectric dams on the river.“We don’t think any institutions will present any more proposals, especially because it was more than just a few people who voted against it,” Guido said.

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