The Nicaragua Canal and the Rio San Juan route

The Nicaragua Canal and the Rio San Juan route (Gran Canal Inter-Oceánico por Nicaragua y Ruta Río San Juan)
    The Ha'aretz article about the Nicaragua Canal (which SBall linked to from this website too), has been quoted by some 500 websites already in nine days. Personally I think this story is a complete hoax. But even it was true the clumsiness of Ortega/Pastora in this "San Juan river project" is quite astonishing and will certainly distract future potential investors for years. On the other hand if this Nicaraguan Canal project following the Río San Juan route is serious, the project of the 250 MW Brito Hydro-electric dam has to be cancelled (it's paused now to re-study environmental impact). Ortega talked about investing in the Nicaragua Canal with the Russians earlier this year, but I doubt if they're still interested. The United Arab Emirates, who showed interest in 2009, are probably scared off too. Japanese and Chinese investors who had talks earlier then 2009 did say goodbye already. Such a pity, because an Inter-oceanic canal for post PanaMax ships has been in high demand for some time and could have doubled Nicaragua's GDP easily. In 2014/2015 the Panama Canal Expansion Project (USD $5.25 billion) will be finished. At that time the Panama canal will be able to accomodate even 13,100 TEU container ships, like the Maersk Edinburgh and 140,000+ DWT "New PanaMax" size vessels (366m x 45m x 15m). From then on The Nicaragua Inter-Oceanic Canal Plan will be definitely history, like the Mexican Tehuantepec Inter-oceanic Canal and the Columbian Inter-oceanic Canal. Up until now the "Nicaragua Inter-Oceanic Canal Project" seemed to pop up every 3-4 years or so, mostly one year before elections and then it is put back in some drawer to stay there until the next election. I tried to find today the latest Nicaragua Canal Report to check what it's got to say about the Rio San Juan route. You can't find the plan on Nicaraguan websites though, not even on the official websites of the Nicaraguan government. Surprisingly...the only place where you can find it is on the website of the Panama Canal! It's the 2006 report of the Comisión de Trabajo del Gran Canal. It's a professional feasibility study and certainly worth reading. It was originally written in 1999, reviewed and updated by presidential decree in 2002 and 2006. The maps which I embedded in this post (hard to find too on the Internet) are taken from this (copyright free) report. The report is saying the following about the Rio San Juan route:
      Route No. 6, the traditional San Juan River, was rejected for the following reasons:
      • Geological, because the subsoil in the middle and lower river is formed by a layer of sandy material ranges from 60'(18 m) and 150' (46 m) from its confluence with the San Carlos River to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean
      • The negative effects to the environment (damage to river and marine ecosystems, destruction of the river by digging, cutting and dredging to correct its course, deepen and broaden the canal to be wide enough and smoothing curves into long straight sections)
      • Commitments to UNESCO to safeguard protected areas located in the basin
      • The sediment carried by the river and its tributaries would generate difficulties and high maintenance costs
      • The costs that would be generated by the construction of hydraulic works needed for flood protection during periods of rain
      What are the statements about the recommended route in this proposal?
        3.10 In the analysis of all the considered routes is concluded that the route No. 3, with a length of 286 km, including about 80 km on Lake Nicaragua, is the most convenient.
          3.11 The selection of route No. 3 is due to several reasons:
          • Requires a lower investment cost (U.S. $ 17.4 million). This is mainly due to a smaller volume of soil excavation. In addition, the geology of the area is excavation-friendly. The topography of the land is relatively flat, with an upward slope of 2% in the first 54 km from the coast of the Atlantic. Further from this point on, the route is located in a land-depression with relatively uniform topography, clearly showing a corridor between foothills at Chontaleña (heights between 60 and 200 meters at certain points) to reach a point 16 km from the east coast of Lake Nicaragua. From here starts another extension of flat land with a slope of 2% to the lake.
          • Does not interfere with any river or major natural obstacle and is therefore eliminating potential hydrological problems
          • It is the route that least affects the environment. The terrain of the route is already damaged and very sparsely populated.
          3.12 Unlike the rest of the area, the corridor through which this route is located is a strip of sedimentary soils (with the exception of about 15 km where the soil is composed of rocks of different hardnesses, but many in a state of decomposition), easying its excavation and therefore reducing costs.
            3.13 The route No. 3 is the only one that provides two ways to build the Grand Canal. One is the chosen option, * build with two levels of operation as shown in Figure 3.2 and as described in paragraph 3.24, operating with water from reservoirs to be built in the Escondido River basin and using water of Lake Nicaragua. The other possibility is to solely operate with water from Lake Nicaragua. The latter option was discarded because of its higher volume of excavation and greater amount of investment compared with the recommended option.
              Alternative Routes Nicaragua Inter-Oceanic Canal

              Alternative Routes Nicaraguan Inter-Oceanic Canal:

              • Route.1 Cayman Rock - Río Escondido - Río Mico - Río Oyate - Lago de Nicaragua - Río Las Lajas - Río Brito.
              • Route.2: Cayman Rock - Río Escondido - Mahogany Creek - Río Rama - Río Oyate - Lago de Nicaragua - Río Las Lajas - Río Brito.
              • Route.3: Hound Sound Bar (sur de la Isla del Venado) - Río Rama - Río Oyate - Lago de Nicaragua - Río Las Lajas - Río Brito.
              • Route.4: Punta Gorda - Río Tule - Lago de Nicaragua - Río Las Lajas - Río Brito.
              • Route.5: Punta Gorda - Río Los Sábalos - Río San Juan - San Carlos - Lago de Nicaragua - Río Las Lajas - Río Brito.
              • Route.6: San Juan del Norte - Río San Juan - Lago de Nicaragua - Río Las Lajas - Río Brito.
              Route 3 Nicaragua Inter-Oceanic Canal

              Recommended Route "3" Nicaragua Inter-Oceanic Canal

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              Very Informative Post

              The $17.4 million alluded to for route 3 must be just the estimated excavation cost from the coast to Lake Nicaragua?

              It couldn't possibly include the complete infrastructure . . .

              You noticed!

              You noticed! Actually it's not my typo, it's the report's typo ;-). Route 3 was estimated the cheapest at "17,345 millones US$" in 2006. While the report is in Spanish, the writer of the report mixed up "," and "." and inconsequently "millones" and "billones".