Puesco-Momolluco complex and Tolten Watershed hydropower plans, Chile

"Los ríos nos unen" (rivers unite us), say basin-wide opposition to "sacrifice watersheds"; read about this RoR project included in the government study aiming at massive exploitation of major river basins in the country


El Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Puesco – Momolluco”, pretendía localizarse en las comunas de Curarrehue y Pucón, aproximadamente a 58 km al suroriente de la ciudad de Pucón y unos 20 km al sur de la ciudad de Curarrehue con una  construcción y operación de dos centrales hidroeléctricas de pasada, denominadas Central Hidroeléctrica Puesco (CH Puesco) y Central Hidroeléctrica Momolluco (CH Momolluco). La CH Puesco pretendían instalarla en la ribera izquierda del río del mismo nombre para generar una potencia de aproximadamente 19,8 MW utilizando para ello un caudal máximo de 7,4 m3/s del río Puesco, mientras que la CH Momolluco en la ribera oriente del río homónimo para producir una potencia de aproximadamente 19,9 MW con  un caudal máximo de 12,2 m3/s obtenidos del río Momolluco. La operación de ambas centrales buscaba generar aproximadamente 175,2 GWh al año. Asimismo, para inyectar la energía generada al Sistema Interconectado Central (SIC) se proyectaba la construcción de dos subestaciones eléctricas (S/E Puesco y S/E Momolluco), una Línea de Transmisión (LTE) de 66 kV, de aproximadamente 52,5 km, y una Línea de Conexión de tipo Tap-Off de 1,53 km.

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Basic Data
NamePuesco-Momolluco complex and Tolten Watershed hydropower plans, Chile
ProvinceProvincia de Cautín, Región de la Araucanía
SiteComunas de Villarrica, Temuco, Pucón, Curarruehue, Toltén, Pitrufquén y Loncoche
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsEl Proyecto consiste en la construcción y operación de 2 centrales hidroeléctricas de pasada, denominadas Central Hidroeléctrica Puesco (CH Puesco) y Central Hidroeléctrica Momolluco (CH Momolluco). Las obras de generación de la CH Puesco se ubicarán en la ribera izquierda del Río Puesco y tendrán una potencia de aproximadamente 19,8 MW, mientras que las obras de generación de la CH Momolluco se ubicarán en la ribera oriente del río Momolluco y tendrán una potencia de aproximadamente 19,9 MW, por lo cual ambas califican como un Medio de Generación No Convencional (MGNC). La operación de ambas centrales pretende generar aproximadamente 175,2 GWh al año. Para inyectar la energía generada al Sistema Interconectado Central (SIC) se requiere construir obras de transmisión, consistentes en dos subestaciones eléctricas (Subestación Puesco y Subestación Momolluco), una Línea de Transmisión de aproximadamente 52,5 km, y una Línea de Conexión de tipo Tap-Off.
Project Area (in hectares)788,600
Level of Investment (in USD)90,000,000 (ONLY FOR THE PUESCO-MOMOLLUCO PROJECT)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population690,000 people live in the basin
Start Date11/03/2014
Company Names or State EnterprisesBesalco from Chile - Would benefit from the study if it became policy
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Energy; Ministry of Environment; Ministry of Indigenous Affairs
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLos Rios Nos Unen (The Rivers Unite Us): Kayak Stewards Alliance; PuescoFest
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Local fests gathering several groups of local residents
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Noise pollution, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Other Health impacts
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Preparing to implement study as national policy
Development of AlternativesProposals for Chile to move towards 100% renewable energies with no new hydro, submitted by the Mesa Ciudadana del Cambio Climatico (Chile), a coalition of over 20 NGOs; Proposals for Chile to establish Wild & Scenic Rivers Designation and permanently protect key waterways in at-risk watersheds, being developed by International Rivers (global) and several local Chilean NGOs and attorneys.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The Watershed Mapping Study is being finalized and will be presented in September 2016. While the methodologies used in the study has created some conflict in the seven watersheds being prioritized for hydro development, the full outcome of the study will only be seen if it is allowed to become national energy policy.
Sources and Materials

Law No. 1122 of 29.10.1981. El Código de Aguas

Law 20017. Created a royalty or tax applicable to owners of non-consumptive and continuous water rights who fail to utilize the waters. Specifically, the tax applies when owners fail to build infrastructure works to capture and restitute the waters. Law 20,017 provides that if the taxes are not paid, the courts may order the public auction of the respective water rights.

Article 28 of Law 19300. Related with "Community Participation in the Environmental Impact Assessment Process" page. 13

Law 19300 or the Environmental Framework Law, provides the basis for the organisation of environmental laws in Chile. It establishes the regulatory framework for environmental activity in Chile such as the environmental impact assessment system (EIAS), liability for environmental damage, air and water quality and emission standards, and pollution prevention and decontamination plans, among others.


Estudio de Impacto Ambiental
[click to view]

Carta que Pone término a procedimiento de evaluación de impacto ambiental del proyecto"Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Puesco-Momolluco" - Abril 2015
[click to view]

Media Links

PuescoFest - Nationally-renowned event bringing together musicians, indigenous leaders, local communities and members of the international kayaking community to celebrate the Puesco Valley and the protection of its rivers.
[click to view]

Other Documents

Rio Tolten View of the Tolten River and the Villarrica Volcano, situated in a National Park.
[click to view]

Free Rivers of Puesco The annual PuescoFest is a celebration of the rivers in the Tolten watershed and throughout Chile.
[click to view]

Other CommentsThis is a local, regional, national and global conflict. Several watersheds in Chile are threatened by the same Watershed Mapping Study. These are rivers that deserve protected status, and it is expected that conflicts in Chile surrounding water rights will continue indefinitely until the country establishes new wild & scenic rivers legislation. Please review the map for information on the other watersheds at risk should the study become energy policy.
Meta Information
ContributorDirector, Futaleufu Riverkeeper, [email protected]
Last update25/07/2016