A team of U.S. Army specialists visited the Coca River, Napo province, Ecuador, to analyze the erosion process that affects strategic road, electrical, and oil infrastructure, on August 2, 2021.
“Many thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their visit to Ecuador, to find the best alternatives to regressive erosion in the Coca River,” Juan Carlos Bermeo Calderón, Ecuadorian minister of Energy and Non-renewable Natural Resources, said on August 2, 2021.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one of the nation’s leading expert organizations in infrastructure and civil engineering, as well as one of the largest public agencies specializing in engineering, design, and management of dams, canals, and flood protection structures, the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador said. This team is involved in a wide variety of public works around the world, the institution added.
“We hope to have our initial bilateral plan of action in place before the end of 2021,” Adriel McConnell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager for Latin America, said on August 2. In addition, the Electric Corporation of Ecuador (CELEC, in Spanish) said in a statement that the government is taking the necessary measures to protect essential works, including those of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric plant.
The erosion front
U.S. specialists, together with authorities of the Ministry of Energy and CELEC, looked over the erosion front, located 7.9 kilometers downstream from the Coca Codo hydroelectric plant, CELEC said in a statement.
They also visited eroded areas that affected railways and the oleoduct infrastructure of Petroecuador, the Ecuadorian state-run hydrocarbon company.
In April 2021, the Coca River’s regressive erosion ruptured a section of the highway connecting Pichincha with Sucumbíos and Orellana, the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio reported. In 2020, this highway collapsed in the Piedra Fina area and by the Montana River, the newspaper added.
The river erosion also caused a bridge over the Montana River to collapse in October 2020, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Transportation and Public Works said on Twitter.
In April 2020, three pipelines ruptured due to erosion and spilled nearly 70,000 liters of oil into the river, affecting indigenous communities downstream, the environmental journalism organization Mongabay Latam said on its website. “If [authorities] don’t act soon, the Coca Codo dam and other infrastructure in the area will continue facing a serious threat,” the news portal added.