Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Conservation FAIL.

The Rio Baker in Patagonia changed my life…
For those of you that don’t know, the Chilean government recently approved the development of one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams in southern Chile, Patagonia. The project will scar the two longest free flowing rivers in all of Chile. This decision was made even with 61% of the population opposing it. On top of the dam issue…
"The project also calls for a 1,500-mile chain of huge power-line towers to transmit electricity to the north. The power-line corridor would permanently scar an enormous swath of Chile, and open rivers north of Patagonia up to dam building”
.  . I’ll let you read the articles by The Cleanest Line from Patagonia and the AP to fill you in with the rest. It really is sickening...but you can decide for yourself.
In the spring after my last year of college, I was on my NOLS course in Patagonia, fly fishing and backpacking in this exact region of Chile. I had just finished college and was venturing out of the states for the first time. One day into my trip I knew I was in trouble. “This is the furthest from people I’ve ever been, that was the ‘cleanest’ trout I’ve ever caught, that’s the bluest river I’ve ever seen, that’s the highest mountain I’ve ever climbed”. I quickly realized that traveling with fly rod in hand was going to shape the rest of my life…and so far it has.
Near the middle of our trip, I remember our hosts sitting us down at the campfire and bringing up the possibility of dams being put in the river that we had been fishing and exploring. I’m sure that we all had the same thought “No way, not here, not possible, this place is way to amazing for that to happen”. To even try to describe to people what this place was like is almost impossible. To fish for wild trout in the shadows of the Andes Mountains, it’s an experience you have to experience to believe.
In the years that followed, I would from time to time hear the issue being brought up in the conservation and fly fishing worlds, still not really clear as to the true possibility of this happening.
Well the other day I came home to this on my FB wall…

Hi Matt. Just got an email from Conservacion Patagonia that Chile's environmental commissioners approved HidroAysen's proposal to construct five hydroelectric dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers. Everywhere we fished & hiked in 2006 will be underwater in a few years : (

    • Matthew Heron Sickening that got approved. I've been trying to follow it as much as possible. I was just talking to my wife about it the other day. Makes me wanna puke.
      Thursday at 8:40pm ·
    • Jorge Postigo Hi Mathew & Dave, as a chilean fly fisher I fell ashamed that the commissioners gave green light to the project! The news you received is right (unfortunately).

The Rio Baker and its surrounding tributaries and landscapes will forever be etched in my mind as one of the most beautiful places that not only trout live, but that we have left on this earth. In this day in age, the options for non hydroelectric energy are mind blowing. Has Chile learned nothing from the mistakes of its neighboring countries and even the world? Haven’t they learned from us (Esp. in the Pacific Northwest) the irreversible damages that dams can cause to the natural balance of Mother Nature? Apparently not. 
The entire watershed that we hiked, fished and made new friends will completely be buried under water. Forever. We even set up base camp for a few days at the confluence of the Rio Baker, and Rio Nef mentioned in the article…this is the exact spot where one of the dams will be.
I can only hope and pray that in the next few months or even years that somehow justice will prevail before construction begins.  Plans are already being put in place to try and reverse the outcome of this decision, and it sounds like in just the past few days momentum is already building.
Check out a few of the pics from one of the “Last best places”…
(Huge bummer, for whatever reason one in a hundred of  my pics, including all the Rio Baker pics won't load...not sure what's up. These pics do the region no justice.)

The start of two weeks in the Andes.


Money hole.

Money everything.

The locals preparing our traditional Asado. Fresh!

The crew at the end.

More updates coming soon thanks to chum nation...

1 comment:

  1. Here is the great updates in this post..great trip to the make a fishing...