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An article today (Mar. 3) in AM CR, "Nicaraguan quake sensed in some parts of country", reports a 6.2 magnitude quake along the NW coast there. The report said that it was "felt in the western half of Costa Rica and most strongly in Paquera, San Ramón and Grecia".

 

Now, after some recent media reportage that Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega has enlisted the experitse of a Chinese engineer(?) to work on designing a new tranisthmic canal which when completed would compete with the Panama Canal, I am wondering about the practicality of such a canal being routed up the San Juan River, thru Lake Nicaragua and onward to the Pacific cutting thru the coastal mountains.

 

I wonder, too, whether the volcano(es) on the island(s) in the lake would be of any concern, in the long run.

 

¡Pura Pasaje!

 

Paul M.

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This sounds like a massive undertaking, but if they pull it off it should be able to compete. If they can cut hours off the transit time, they will have an economic advantage. It sounds like a pipe dream because nothing on this scale has been done in recent years. However, with enough money, manpower, and engineering expertise, it's quite possible.

 

This isn't the first time this plan has been in the news and it seems to be moving into a design phase.

 

T

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Both your comments surely are well taken Jesse and Tom, but what I was mostly wondering is whether it is practical to locat a canal in Nicaragua which is more prone to severe earthquakes than Panamá is.

 

Paul M.

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From what I have read, they are planning to create the canal north of the San Juan so CR cannot make a claim to the canal.

 

Jesse,

 

In light of my concern about earthquakes that would seem to make a canal located somewhat more north as you describe, more likely to increase the potential for earthquake damage to it over time? Certainly it will require massively more digging just to build it..

 

Another thing that was reoprted was that having a canal pass through Lake Nicaragua potentially threatens the clean water supply for much of the country's population. Just one oil or chemical leak from a ship is all it would take to do that.

 

I'd be interested if some seismologists would chime in in the CR media to elaborate on this.

 

Paul M.

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Paul, I also read that environmental impact to the lago will be catastrophic, spill or no spill. The lake is home to species that only exist there. I imagine no thought or planning will go into this and if built, it will require constant repairs.

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It is possible to build just about anything to withstand earthquakes. I doubt they have a strong EPA like agency. I think the economic growth potential will overcome objections. I'm not saying that's right, but it probably will.

 

T

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"In light of my concern about earthquakes that would seem to make a canal located somewhat more north as you describe, more likely to increase the potential for earthquake damage to it over time? Certainly it will require massively more digging just to build it.."

 

This can be done, provided that corruption in the construction doesn't lead to weak or shoddy locks.

Look at some of the videos online from the 3/11 Tohuko (Sendai) Japan 9.0 earthquake. Almost all of the damage was from the tsunami, not from the 'quake itself. Even the meltdown of the Fukishima reactors was from the seawave over-topping the seawall.

There are some very interesting videos from Tokyo of buildings swaying several feet, of ground liquification, etc.

In modern construction, there was very little structural failures there.

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Interesting that you bring up seismic activity on the Nicaraguan route. That issue has been raised before but not for any sound engineering motivations. In the book Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer he writes: "In 1898 the chief of the French Canal Syndicate (a group that already owned large swathes of land across Panama), Philippe Bunau Varilla, hired William Nelson Cromwell to lobby the U.S. Congress for the Panama Canal. In 1902, taking advantage of a year with increased volcanic activity in the Caribbean Sea, Cromwell planted a story in the New York Sun reporting that the Momotombo volcano had erupted and caused a series of seismic shocks. This caused concern about its possible effects on a Nicaraguan canal. Cromwell arranged for leaflets with the stamps featuring Momotombo to be sent to every Senator as "proof" of the volcanic activity in Nicaragua. An eruption in Martinique, which killed 30,000 people, persuaded most of the U.S. Congress to vote in favor of Panama, leaving only eight votes in favor of Nicaragua. The decision to build the Panama Canal passed by four votes. William Nelson Cromwell was paid $800,000 for his lobbying efforts." So even then it was good to "follow the money" to see the truth.

 

There probably would have been a trans-Nica canal built earlier in 1849 but for the William Walker take-over. Cornelius Vanderbilt had the concession to build one and did operate a temporary over-land route until Walker arrived to rule fleetingly in Nicaragua. The Nica route resurfaced in 1850, 1897 and 1899 but by then the French were rushing to Panama. The French were suckered into the Panama route by Ferdinand de Lesseps (he of Suez canal fame) who grossly underestimated the costs and challenges of a sea-level canal thru mountains and in the tropics. The previously mentioned land ownership in Panama would also have been a factor to the financiers and speculators.

 

By the early 1900s the French had failed (x2) in Panama, making it cheap to take over that attempt (but drastically redesigning the scope to incorporate locks) and using part of the excavation of that failed project. BTW: Some 22,000 men died during the French attempts, most of tropical diseases and sanitation issues.

 

So we can see that engineering has played but a small role in the location of today's canal. As always, it is money and politics that rule.

Edited by stfree

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Thanx for that bit of information, Stfree.

 

I suppose earthquakes or no, that the Caribbean lowlands in Nicaragua will give a similar run for their money (as did Panamá) to these new developers and also to the workers who will be digging out a route for the canal thru the swampy parts of the country.

 

Much of those lowland areas are still unsettled since they are oftern quite swampy and inhospitable.

 

Paul M.

==

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Today is the start of construction.


http://news.yahoo.com/construction-begin-controversial-nicaragua-canal-003625983.html


Construction will begin with the first access roads at the mouth of the Brito River on the Central American country's Pacific coast.


Wang's Hong Kong Nicaragua Development Investment (HKND) company says 300 workers will build the roads and a port, the first of 50,000 people who will be hired to construct the massive 280-kilometer waterway connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.


Last year, Ortega's allies in Congress fast-tracked legislation granting HKND a 50-year concession, renewable for another 50, to build and operate a canal in return for a payment of $10 million a year once it's up and running. The law lets HKND develop ancillary projects — ports, an airport, roads, a railway — even if it doesn't get built.


http://hknd-group.com/portal.php?mod=list&catid=36


The integrated Nicaragua Grand Canal project will include the following 6 sub projects: Canal (including locks), 2 Ports, a Free Trade Zone, Holiday Resorts, an International Airport and several roads. In addition, there will be construction of a power station, cement factory, steel factory and other related facilities to ensure the successful completion of the canal within 5 years.



http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/22/nicaragua-canal-tobreakgroundamidangerskepticism.html


Workers were set to break ground Monday for the construction of Nicaragua's controversial $50 billion canal linking the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The mega-project — widely reported as the world’s largest civil engineering enterprise


Construction was set to begin at the mouth of the Brito river on Nicaragua's Pacific coast. If completed, the canal will then run across Lake Nicaragua, through rainforest and at least 40 villages requiring resettlement. The canal will then terminate at the mouth of river Punta Gorda in the southern Caribbean.


Rather than dredge the lakebed to make it deep enough for large vessels, Talavera said, the project will use machines to suction the soil in order to keep upturned sediment from clouding the water and shutting down photosynthesis.

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Well, Nicaraguans are pissed off about this. A coalition of farmers, environmentalists and just citizens are totally against it, and for good reason. Environmental damage will be severe, towns will be obliterated and land will be taken by "eminent domain" type actions. Plus, the Chinese will be building it which could be a problem.

 

In my opinion, it's an obvious further action on the part of the Chinese to get a strong(er?) foothold in Latin America. With oil exploration and oil wells off the coast of Nicaragua, a refinery in Costa Rica, China is then poised for easy transport of massive quantities of oil and/or gas to China. Whatever the deal that is made, it will be beneficial to China, for sure.

 

I think that this is one way that Ortega can put the focus away from Nicaragua's extremely difficult situation and put in the minds of the people the economic benefits of such a canal, a la Panama, and pinning his hopes on this canal rescuing Nicaragua from the depths. Of course, in essence, he doesn't really care about the people of Nicaragua, as has been shown over and over, but just walking in the steps of previous dictators. Shame on him and sad for the families of Sandinistas who died to make Nicaragua free, only to succumb to the same old, same old.

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