III. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT by iwe54296

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III.   ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT
       The methodology applied to EIA on account of Kárahnjúkar Power Plant is
       explained in this part of the report. Options will be discussed that were examined for
       hydropower development (Section 8) and various possible versions of some
       structures (Section 9). In addition, the environmental effects of construction are
       evaluated and plans presented for counteractive measures against negative
       environmental impact.

7      EIA IN GENERAL
       This section covers the scope and methods of assessing environmental effects of the
       proposed hydroelectric construction, treating the evaluation of conservation value for
       different areas. Finally, there is discussion of presentation and consultation related to
       the project.

7.1    EXTENT AND METHODS
       The construction of Kárahnjúkar Power Plant will lead to manifold effects on the
       environment – most of them permanent – so that there is ample reason when
       assessing environmental impact to check fully and clearly describe lasting
       modifications. Evaluation has been carried out in accordance with Icelandic
       legislation, also taking account of how corresponding work is handled elsewhere in
       Europe; to this end a Swedish consultant has actively participated in the project.
       EIA in Iceland is performed under the current act, No. 106/2000, which is amended
       from the previous act No. 63/1993, and complies with directives of the European
       Union (85/337/EEC and 97/11/EC). After the amendment of previous legislation last
       year, a new set of regulations also came into force in Iceland, No. 671/2000, to direct
       EIA more precisely.
       Under the Act, EIA must describe direct and indirect impacts that the proposed
       development and accompanying operations may have on the following:
         • human beings, fauna, flora and the rest of the biosphere
         • soil, geological formations, water, air, climate, and the landscape
         • material assets, society, health, culture, cultural remains and employment
         • interaction of the above factors.
       The EU directive specifies the same items.
       Environmental impact assessment for the proposed Kárahnjúkar Power Plant is based
       on its technical description along with environmental research that has been carried
       out in the area of probable impact, whether the investigations were especially
       undertaken in connection with the assessment or already existed. A list of references
       to research is included in Part IV, at the end of the report.




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The following methodology has been applied in the EIA process:
Initial scoping at the stage of the EIA proposal:
    • collection and evaluation of older data
    • definition of options and principal environmental factors, based on available
      information
    • initial consultation with public bodies, voluntary organisations and the public
    • EIA proposal describing the scope and aspects of evaluation
Final scoping, collection of data and assessment:
    • field research in the period of May-October, 2000, on flora and fauna,
      hydrology, sedimentation, geology, erosion, climate, visual effects, sites of
      natural or archaeological importance, and tourism.
    • further consultation with public bodies, voluntary organisations and the public
    • analysis of technical aspects
    • public planning, study of social and economic effects
    • examination of alternate methods of design and construction to reduce
      undesirable impact on the environment
    • evaluation of the most important environmental influences along with
      counteractive measures.
There was a tangible lack of adequate information on the region, and hence wide-
ranging, basic research had to be undertaken because of this project.
During EIA, it is a requirement to explain and compare the major alternatives that
might be considered. Section 8 treats two other main options for developing the
glacial rivers of Jökuldalur and Fljótsdalur, comparing them with the proposed
development, i.e. Kárahnjúkar Power Plant with a diversion from Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
and storage of water reserves in Hálslón. In addition, producing energy by other
means is discussed, along with the zero option, as provided in regulations on EIA,
i.e. evaluating the effect of not undertaking the proposed development.
During the EIA process, the environmental factors that from the beginning were
believed to have the most impact, as well as other aspects that have emerged during
research, were examined by specialists in each field. Based on assembled data, an
effort has been made to assess the significance of each factor of impact. Sections 9
and 10 present so-called impact maps showing the main environmental effects
conveniently digested, while Section 13 summarises the effects of construction still
further, in tabular form. Evaluation of the value of areas of natural beauty within the
impact zone of Kárahnjúkar Power Plant is discussed specifically, based on
approaches of the Institute of Natural History (cf. more specifically Section 7.2
below).
It is considered beyond the scope of this EIA to attempt “a monetary evaluation of
the value of open spaces4” - note for instance the conclusion of the Planning Agency
on the proposal for EIA. There is supplementary comment on such evaluation in
[V24].

4
    Comments were advanced asking for financial evaluation of the areas where construction is
    imminent.
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      Figure 2.3 clarifies the impact area of Kárahnjúkar Power Plant (see Section 2)
      insofar as direct local influence is concerned. Nevertheless, some factors of impact
      may extend farther - to the entire region of East Iceland, the whole country or even to
      other nations - and such factors are described where appropriate.

7.2   CONSERVATION VALUE OF NATURE IN DIFFERENT AREAS
      Section 9 of the EIA report includes a discussion of the nature conservation value of
      areas in the region affected by the power plant. Evaluation of an area’s significance
      for conservation is always based on the methodology involved. In connection with
      the EIA for the hydroelectric project, as well as the government's overall plan on
      using water power and geothermal energy, a great deal of discussion has taken place
      on evaluating the conservation value of different areas. The Institute of Natural
      History's report on the importance of conserving nature in areas where hydro projects
      are envisaged north of the main highland glaciers has proved most useful in this
      work.5
      Conservation standards are based on Icelandic legislation regarding the preservation
      of nature, and on the international treaties in this field to which Iceland is a party.
      The Institute of Natural History bases its evaluation of conservation value for each
      area on the following factors:
          • value of habitat types
          • value of geological formations.
      Evaluation of how important it is to conserve habitats is based upon categorisation
      and division of the area into eleven different types of habitat, each of which is graded
      depending on their conservation value in relation to various yardsticks which indicate
      what types are of more value than others. Judging conservation value of geological
      formations takes into account, among other things, their importance for science and
      the modification that would occur in the overall scenery and landscape, including for
      instance the role of waterfalls.
      The above-mentioned approach of the Institute of Natural History has been used in
      this report to assess the conservation value for the Hálslón area, based on the report
      mentioned earlier from the institute, and on field work performed for EIA. Insofar as
      other impacted locations than Hálslón are concerned, certain basic information is
      lacking which would be required to estimate conservation value as decisively as for
      Hálslón, so that in those cases value is decided according to general standards for the
      preservation of nature, based on the following factors:
          •   geological formations (including waterfalls)
          •   overall appearance of the vicinity
          •   rare plants and animals
          •   important species and stocks.
      For a full context in assessing the real conservation value of various areas, it would
      be desirable to be able to compare them with other areas - locally, nationally and


      5
          Sigmundur Einarsson et al. Náttúruverndargildi á virkjunarsvæðum norðan jökla. Institute of
          Natural History, June, 2000.
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      internationally. However, since the approaches treated here are in their initial stages
      in Iceland, the rest of the country has not been evaluated in the same fashion,
      rendering such comparison difficult. General standards for conservation laid down
      in Icelandic law and international agreements nevertheless provide a certain
      indication of the value of sites for conservation. For a summary of the laws and
      international pacts applying to the region impacted by the plant and followed in the
      current assessment of the conservation value of areas, see [V2]. The subject is further
      discussed in section 10.1.2.2.

7.3   PRESENTATION AND CONSULTATION
      The new Environmental Impact Assessment Act, No. 106/2000, places stricter
      demands than previously on developers concerning disclosure during the process of
      evaluation. The objective is to obtain information, comments and dialogue
      throughout the assessment process. Today, the task of evaluation comprises two
      phases, as shown in Figure 1.2. The first step is writing a so-called proposal for
      assessment prior to undertaking research, evaluating impact and composing the
      actual EIA statement. Investigations and compilation of that final report are based
      on the proposal, which in this case was the Landsvirkjun plan regarding the aspects
      of construction and the environment that should be emphasised and discussed. The
      EIA proposal was presented by Landsvirkjun to the Planning Agency in July, 2000.
      It has been Landsvirkjun's policy to make known the work on EIA for the plant, and
      to publish research results as soon as they became available. Introductory trips were
      taken to the area of construction (Figure 7.1) and various meetings were held with
      interested parties, public bodies which have a consultative role, various voluntary
      organisations and the public. The draft EIA proposal, arrangement of structures,
      results of research and later the draft report itself were presented, in addition to
      presenting information on the project simultaneously through a website,
      http://www.karahnjukar.is, where visitors on the Internet have had the opportunity of
      expressing their suggestions and comments.
      Dated on August 16, 2000, the conclusion of the Planning Agency on the EIA
      proposal for Kárahnjúkar Power Plant treated the reviews and criticism then
      available, and succeeding work has taken account of that input. The main points
      raised focussed on the following subjects:
        • vegetation to be submerged by Hálslón reservoir (Section 9.1.4.2)
        • the risk of wind erosion and denudation around the site of Hálslón
          (Section 9.1.4.5)
        • destruction of vegetation and erosion in Desjarárdalur (Section 9.1.1.6)
        • potential accumulation of fallen rock in the canyon Hafrahvammagljúfur
          (Section 9.1.5.4)
        • effects on geological formations (Sections 9.1.4.4, 9.1.5.4 and 10.1.2.3)
        • emission of greenhouse gases from Hálslón reservoir (Section 9.1.4.6)
        • impact on reindeer (Sections 9.1.1.4, 9.1.3.3, 9.1.4.3 and 9.2.4.2)
        • increased flow, high water level and erosion at Jökulsá í Fljótsdal and
          Lagarfljót (Sections 9.1.6.1 and 9.2.5.1)
        • location of spoils dumps due to tunnelling (Section 9.1.2)
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  • influence on water temperature in Lagarfljót and air temperature in the Hérað
    area (Section 9.1.6.5)
  • change in the colour of Lagarfljót lake and river (Section 9.1.6.4)
  • effect on fish runs in Jökulsá á Dal river (Section 9.1.5.3)
  • erosion at Héraðsflói bay due to the rivers transporting less sediment to the sea
    (Section 9.1.7.5)
  • impact on coastal ecology at Héraðsflói (Section 9.1.7.4)
  • influence on tourism and the founding of a national park (Section 10.3)
  • risks involved in selling electricity from the plant (Section 10.5)
  • assessment of opportunity cost and of financial properties (Section 7.1).




Figure 7.1    Consultation at the site: Administrators of environmental impact
              assessment for the power plant travelled with the parliamentary
              committees on industry and the environment through the area of
              development by Kárahnjúkar in September, 2000. From left: Ísólfur
              G. Pálmason (Progressive Party), Kristján Pálsson (Independence P.),
              Jóhann Ársælsson (Alliance), Árni S. Jóhannsson (Left-Green),
              Bryndís Hlöðversdóttir (Alliance), Drífa Hjartardóttir (Independence
              P.), Sigurður St. Arnalds, director of EIA, and Ragnheiður Ólafsdóttir,
              Head of Environmental Affairs at Landsvirkjun.
This report deals with the items above, the relevant sections being indicated in the
above list. Moreover, in relation to comments on increased flow and erosion of
Jökulsá í Fljótsdal and Lagarfljót, see [V1], which describes the views of residents by
these waterways on potential effects.
As far as possible, account has been taken of contributed ideas and comments
pertaining to design of the power plant and regarding matters of selection and
arrangement, for instance concerning the spillway by Kárahnjúkar and the situating
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of Sauðárdalur Dam, as well as roads and tracks, tunnel entrances and dump sites,
structures in Fljótsdalur and other points, as detailed in Section 9.
Furthermore, suggestions on counteractive measures have been discussed with
interested parties and the involved public officials.
[V1] presents more detail on consultation during the compilation of this report.




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8     ALTERNATIVES FOR DEVELOPMENT
      This section deals with the following topics:
        • processing the government’s so-termed Master Plan for Utilisation of
          Renewable Energy Resources in Iceland
        • the principal alternatives that have been examined in Northeast Iceland for
          providing energy to major industry, along with their impact on the environment
        • the effects that not constructing at Kárahnjúkar might have on the environment,
          nature and society
        • a comparison of the options for development and their outstanding influences
          on the environment
        • other means of generating power for large-scale industry in the Northeast
        • a few ideas on future use of the highlands north of Vatnajökull
        • suggestions that have been put forward on founding a national park.

8.1   THE GOVERNMENT’S MASTER PLAN FOR UTILISATION OF
      RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES IN ICELAND
      A master plan on using water power and geothermal energy is now being prepared
      by the ministries of industry and the environment, with the aim of evaluating options
      for development and categorising them in reference to energy capacity, feasibility
      and significance for the national economy and employment, as well as in regard to
      impact on the environment, nature and society.
      The task force responsible is carrying out a variety of studies of options, other than
      those now under special consideration by companies in the energy field engaged in
      environmental impact assessment. The task force on the master plan is examining
      such other possibilities than Kárahnjúkar as harnessing Jökulsá á Fjöllum, the glacial
      watercourses of Skagafjörður, the waterway Skjálfandafljót and the river Síðuvötn.
      The group is considering further development of Þjórsá, as well as hydro projects in
      the West Fjords and various ideas on geothermal power plants. A number of these
      options have hardly been studied until now.
      Completion of the first phase in overall planning is anticipated in 2003, whereas
      provisional conclusions on some of the main options are targeted earlier - the first by
      the end of 2001.
      While the proposal for an EIA of the power plant was being processed by the state
      Planning Agency in July and August 2000, the opinion was voiced by organisations
      and individuals that assessment of the environmental impact of the Kárahnjúkar plant
      should be delayed till the results of the Master Plan for Utilisation of Renewable
      Energy Resources were available. The Planning Agency’s conclusion on EIA for
      Kárahnjúkar Power Plant, dated August 16, 2000, answers this point as follows:
           The Planning Agency considers it crucial that a detailed comparison of
           all realistic options in the proposed area of construction be completed
           before a decision is made on development. The object of the master plan
           is to evaluate and classify options for energy development in relation to

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              energy capacity and feasibility, as well as impact on nature and points of
              natural or cultural significance, along with the interests of those who use
              these resources. It would be conducive to easier assessment of the
              environmental impact of Kárahnjúkar Power Plant and to more
              systematic discussion if results from the overall plan existed;
              nevertheless, the agency is of the opinion that the reasons for deferring
              environmental impact assessment for the plant until the master plan is
              ready are insufficient, though the agency emphasises the importance of
              the Kárahnjúkar report comparing the environment effects of different
              utilisation of the area, including the zero option, and treating other
              potential power sources for an aluminium plant in Reyðarfjörður.”
      In accord with this instruction from the Planning Agency, the principal ideas that
      have been discussed for developing energy to serve large-scale industry in Northeast
      Iceland are reviewed below, before being compared with each other in terms of
      environmental effects, and with the possibility of no development at all, the so-called
      zero option.

8.2   INITIAL IDEAS FOR                             POWER            DEVELOPMENT                    IN
      NORTHEAST ICELAND
      The original ideas on hydroelectric projects for the glacial rivers north of Vatnajökull
      - Jökulsá á Dal, Jökulsá í Fljótsdal and Jökulsá á Fjöllum - have a history of several
      decades, with a number of possibilities being presented on the best means of utilising
      the power dwelling in these rivers and on what environmental effects that would
      have. Many reports have been written about the alternatives6 and a multitude of
      specialised studies carried out.
      In a report from the Ministry of Industry dated in August, 1994, on power plants
      north of Vatnajökull - information to prepare for policy formulation, the following
      two alternatives for developing Jökulsá á Fjöllum and Jökulsá á Dal are accounted
      most feasible in regard to energy capacity:
          • Harnessing Jökulsá á Dal with a diversion to Fljótsdalur (Kárahnjúkar Power
            Plant) along with Jökulsá á Fjöllum by diverting it from a reservoir in
            Arnardalur down into the upper segment of Jökuldalur (Efri-Jökuldalur) at the
            initial stage and to Fljótsdalur (diversion from Brú) at a latter stage. The


      6
          Cf. for example the following sources:
          Verkfræðistofa Sigurðar Thoroddsen sf. Austurlandsvirkjun. Yfirlit yfir virkjunarathuganir á
          vatnasviðum Jökulsár á Fjöllum, Jökulsár á Brú og Jökulsár í Fljótsdal. National Energy
          Authority, October, 1975, OS-ROD 75.38.
          Almenna verkfræðistofan hf., Virkir hf., Verkfræðistofa Sigurðar Thoroddsen hf. Austurlands-
          virkjun. Forathugun virkjana á vatnasviðum Jökulsár á Fjöllum, Jökulsár á Brú og Jökulsár í
          Fljótsdal. Orkustofnun-Rafmagnsveitna ríkisins, May, 1978, OS-ROD 7817.
          Joint committee of the Ministry of Industry and Nature Conservation Council on energy matters
          (SINO). Samanburður á umhverfisáhrifum nokkurra tilhagana á stórvirkjun á Austurlandi
          (Austurlandsvirkjun). Reykjavík, February, 1993.
          Virkjanir norðan Vatnajökuls – Upplýsingar til undirbúnings stefnumótun. Ministry of Industry,
          August, 1994.
          Fljótsdalsvirkjun – Umhverfi og umhverfisáhrif. Landsvirkjun, November, 1999.
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           generative capability of this alternative, designated Option A, is some
           7,300 GWh annually.
        • Developing Jökulsá á Dal in two phases, first through a plant below
           Hafrahvammagljúfur including a diversion down into the upper segment of
           Jökuldalur (Efri-Jökuldalur), and from there to Fljótsdalur, in a plant associated
           with Brú, at a latter stage. Jökulsá á Fjöllum, as above, would be developed by
           diverting it from a reservoir in Arnardalur down into the upper segment of
           Jökuldalur (Efri-Jökuldalur) at the initial stage, and to Fljótsdalur, in the plant
           associated with Brú, at a latter stage. The capacity of this alternative, which is
           called Option B, is about 7,300 GWh annually.
      The possibilities below are also mentioned:
         • Harnessing Jökulsá í Fljótsdal via a reservoir at Eyjabakkar (capable of
           1,300 GWh per year)
         • Utilising Hálslón as storage for Jökulsá í Fljótsdal, as proposed in the current
           plans for Kárahnjúkar Power Plant, although that reduces the maximum
           capacity of Jökulsá í Fljótsdal by about 200 GWh, to some 1,100 GWh yearly.
      In comparing the environmental effects of the hydropower options listed above, the
      impact of developing Jökulsá á Fjöllum in such a way as to curtail flow over the
      waterfalls of Selfoss, Dettifoss and Hafragilsfoss is weighted heavily in contrast to
      other aspects of the environment. Each of the falls is in the upper portion of the
      canyon Jökulsárgljúfur, which is a national park, and they all belong to the category
      of highest priority for preservation on the waterfall register of the Nature
      Conservation Council. Using Jökulsá á Fjöllum would also involve considerable
      transfer of water between traditional provinces of Iceland, since that river would be
      moved from its current estuary in Öxarfjörður over to Héraðsflói.
      In light of this, options regarding the use of Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal for
      electricity production were viewed as much more attractive, it being recommended
      that they be more closely investigated before continuing to look into options
      involving the development of Jökulsá á Fjöllum. For that reason, Options A and B
      will not be discussed in any more detail in this report, since their impact upon the
      environment is considered much greater and more negative than that of the option of
      utilising Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal

8.3   OPTIONS FOR DEVELOPING                           JÖKULSÁ          Á    DAL       AND
      JÖKULSÁ Í FLJÓTSDAL
      The three options for hydropower production to be discussed here which have been
      studied concerning the development of Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal are
      based on [V4] and can be summarised as follows:
         • Option 1: One plant, i.e. Kárahnjúkar Power Plant, in which water from
           Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá á Fljótsdal is brought together for one power station
           in Fljótsdalur. This option, the choice of Landsvirkjun, is the main theme of
           this EIA statement (Figure 8.1). The energy capacity is about 4,890 GWh per
           year (Table 8.1).



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  • Option 2: Two plants, Kárahnjúkar Power Plant and Fljótsdalur Power Plant,
                                                  )
    including diversions to Fljótsdalur (Figure 8.1. The energy capacity is around
    5,090 GWh annually (Table 8.1).
  • Option 3: Five power plants in Jökuldalur and Fljótsdalur (Figure 8.1. The
                                                                            )
    energy capacity is some 5,440 GWh yearly (Table 8.1).




Figure 8.1    Options for harnessing Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal.
More detailed descriptions of these alternatives may be found in Sections 8.3.1,
8.3.2 and 8.3.3, while their most pertinent statistics are presented for comparison in

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        Table 8.1. Subsequently, their environmental effects are compared in Section 8.5
        with those of the so-called zero option (Section 8.4). Finally, the environmental
        impact of Option 1, selected by Landsvirkjun, is treated in Sections 9 to 13.

        Table 8.1       Principal statistics of options for developing Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá
                        í Fljótsdal.
        Option      Basic arrangement          Energy   Capacity     Storage      Size of       Head
                                               (MW)     (GWh/a)      volume      reservoir       (m)
                                                                       (Gl)        (km2)
                    Kárahnjúkar Power           690       4,890       2,100          67            599
           1        Plant with diversion
                    from Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
                             Total              690       4,890       2,100          67            599
                    Kárahnjúkar Power           500       3,700       1,900          52            595
           2        Plant                       210       1,390        500           43            630
                    Fljótsdalur Power Plant
                             Total              710       5,090       2,400          95
                    Plant at Hafrahvammar       288       1,730       1,900          52            231
                    Plant at Grund              116        700          -            7             85
           3        Plant at Arnórsstaðir       159        950          -            8             140
                    Plant at Hrólfsstaðir       112        670          -            5             95
                    Plant in Fljótsdalur        210       1,390        500           43            630
                             Total              885       5,440       2,400         115


8.3.1   KÁRAHNJÚKAR POWER PLANT WITH A DIVERSION FROM JÖKULSÁ
        Í FLJÓTSDAL (OPTION 1)

        Option 1 is the plan dealt with in this report (for more information, see Section 5,
        Figure 8.1 and Table 8.1). Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal would be developed
        as a single power plant including diversions from Gilsárvötn (Bessastaðaá
        Diversion), Grjótá, Hölkná and Laugará (Laugarfell Diversion), Hafursá (Hafursá
        Diversion) and several rivers on Hraun (Hraun Diversion), from where the water
        would course through a headrace tunnel to the power station located underground at
        the upper end of Fljótsdalur valley.
        The plant involves storing water from both glacial rivers in Hálslón, which would be
        by far the largest man-made lake in Iceland at some 57 km2. Among other storage or
        intake basins, Kelduárlón reservoir on Hraun would make up a lake of somewhat less
        than 8 km2. The intake lake for a diversion from Jökulsá í Fljótsdal, Ufsarlón below
        the waterfall Eyjabakkafoss, would only cover about 1 km2 on a level with the crest
        of the waterfall, while other reservoirs would be smaller. In all, therefore, the lakes
        will have a surface area of around 66 km2, of which about 37 km2 will cover
        vegetated ground.




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8.3.2   KÁRAHNJÚKAR POWER PLANT AND FLJÓTSDALUR POWER PLANT
        (OPTION 2)

        Option 2 is based on utilising the two rivers Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
        separately (Figure 8.1 and Table 8.1). As in Option 1, a dam at Kárahnjúkar would
        facilitate storing and diverting water from Jökulsá á Dal to Fljótsdalur; however, the
        water of Jökulsá í Fljótsdal would be stored in a reservoir at Eyjabakkar, to be
        conveyed to a separate power plant in Fljótsdalur along with water from the
        Laugarfell and Hraun Diversions. Energy capacity would be somewhat higher based
        on this design than from a common power plant, though the cost per unit of energy
        would be similar.
        Overall, construction at Jökulsá á Dal would be similar to that described in Section
        8.3.1, i.e. harnessing the river by conducting the water over to Fljótsdalur, although
        the surface level of Hálslón reservoir would drop 4 m, making it about 52 km2 rather
        than 57 km2, and the headrace tunnel would lie farther north on Fljótsdalsheiði, since
        the connection to a tunnel from Jökulsá í Fljótsdal would be omitted. Developing
        Jökulsá í Fljótsdal creates a ca. 43 km2 reservoir above Eyjabakkafoss, along with a
        reservoir of about 8 km2 at Kelduá. The total resulting size of the reservoirs is
        around 103 km2, of which some 60 km2 lie over vegetated land.
        Plans have long existed for this project, and construction was commenced in the
        summer of 1991 after the Minister of Industry had issued a permit to Landsvirkjun;
        nevertheless, building ceased the same year when it seemed clear that expectations
        for selling power from the plant would not be fulfilled. In 1999, based on fresh
        intentions of selling energy to an aluminium plant in Reyðarfjörður, resumption of
        construction was planned. However, now matters had evolved so that the
        development was strongly opposed, in particular because of the Eyjabakkar area,
        which was supposed to be curtailed by the reservoir. The main issue was the unusual
        amount of vegetated land: of about 43 km2 in the reservoir, around 27 km2 are
        carpeted with plants and a major portion of the area is wetland with many ponds or
        tiny lakes, situated in the otherwise sparsely vegetated highlands of Iceland. This
        neighbourhood is an important moulting ground for pink-footed geese, and fulfils
        requirements of the Ramsar agreement on conservation of wetlands.


8.3.3   DEVELOPING JÖKULSÁ Á DAL AT FOUR LEVELS IN ITS OWN
        CHANNEL, ALONG WITH FLJÓTSDALUR POWER PLANT (OPTION 3)

        According to Option 3, Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal would be developed
        independently (Figure 8.1 and Table 8.1). Jökulsá á Dal would be harnessed at four
        levels in its own channel, with the uppermost plant situated by Hafrahvammar, the
        next below at Grund, then at Arnórsstaðir and finally by Hrólfsstaðir. Hálslón would
        serve as a reservoir for all the plants. In addition, Jökulsá í Fljótsdal would be
        developed with a separate reservoir at Eyjabakkar, as presented for Option 2. The
        total surface of the reservoirs would cover about 123 km2, made up of the following
        areas for each lake: Hálslón 52 km2, Eyjabakkar reservoir 43 km2, Keldárlón 8 km2
        and the three reservoirs at Grund, Arnórsstaðir and Hrólfsstaðir approximately
        20 km2 together. Some 80 km2 now vegetated would be submerged and a large part
        of Jökuldalur valley would end up under water.

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8.4     NO POWER PLANT - THE ZERO OPTION
        The zero option may be understood as the impact of not undertaking the proposed
        development, and may be more specifically described in the following manner:
          • There will be no construction because of dams, reservoirs, tunnels or other
            diversions to meet the energy needs of a major consumer of electricity.
          • Nature will not be affected, neither positively nor negatively, as brought forth
            in Section 9.
          • Social or economic impact, described in Section 10 - both positive and
            negative - will not occur.
        If Kárahnjúkar Power Plant does not come into being, it is improbable that plans on
        constructing an aluminium plant in Reyðarfjörður will be realised. In that case, the
        positive social and economic impact of the proposed development, in particular on
        the progress of employment and settlements in East Iceland, as well as on national
        economic figures such as gross domestic product and export value, would not come
        into effect.
        The possible future use of the uplands north of Vatnajökull is explored in Sections
        8.7 and 8.8.

8.5     COMPARISON OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF
        OPTIONS 1, 2 AND 3 ALONG WITH THE ZERO OPTION
        This section compares the environmental effects of the following options for power
        production, i.e. 1, 2 and 3 (see also Section 8.3 and Figure 8.1):
          • a single plant, Kárahnjúkar Power Plant, including a diversion from Jökulsá í
            Fljótsdal - Option 1
          • two plants, Kárahnjúkar Power Plant and Fljótsdalur Power Plant, with a
            diversion to Fljótsdalur - Option 2
          • five power plants in the valleys of Jökuldalur and Fljótsdalur - Option 3.


8.5.1   PREMISES

        Here the environmental impacts of the potential plants listed above are contrasted
        with the possibility of no development - the so-called zero option (for more
        information see Section 8.4). The object of comparison is to select the option that
        brings about the least environmental impact. Table 8.2 gives an overview of the
        main environmental effects of each option mentioned, and that information serves as
        basis for the subsequent comparison. Table 8.1 supplements this by presenting the
        principal statistics of the development options.
        In connection with extent of construction and reservoirs, the lakes of Hálslón and
        Kelduárlón are common to all three options. Again, Options 2 and 3 are parallel in
        sharing a reservoir at Eyjabakkar. The main difference between Nos. 2 and 3
        consists of the dams that would be built in Option 3 across Jökulsá á Dal at Grund,
        Arnórsstaðir and Hrólfsstaðir.


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             Table 8.2             Comparison of the zero option with three alternatives for developing Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal.
                                                                                   PRINCIPAL ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS
ALTER-
NATIVES                                                                                                                    Land use and points of             Accessibility and
             Flora and fauna                                                 Landscape                                                                                                               Economy and society
                                                                                                                           interest                           tourism/outdoor recreation
             Main impact                                             Value   Main impact                           Value   Main impact               Value    Main impact                    Value   Main impact        Value
Kárahnjú                2
             Ca. 66 km of land submerged, including about                    Open spaces in the highlands                  Geological                         Improved        access    to           Increase      in
kar Power    37 km2 which is vegetated and most of which has a               reduced by about 925 km2 which                formations and some                uplands and east-west                  gross domestic
Plant with   high conservation value                                         are now mostly devoid of structures           archaeological                     areas joined by bridges                product, though
diversion    Calving, spring grazing and spring migration of                 Visual effects of the principal               remains are lost due               Negative       impact     on           also increased
from         reindeer limited due to Hálslón                                 buildings and dams                            to Hálslón.                        tourists desiring long hikes           foreign debt
Jökulsá í    Some nesting area of Anser          brachyrhynchus              Kárahnjúkar Dam ca. 190 m high                Impact on reindeer                 through wide-open spaces               Employment
Fljótsdal    flooded by Hálslón (for about 1.6 % of the total                and 800 m long, Sauðárdalur Dam               hunting and grazing                Positive impact on general             opportunities
             Icelandic breeders in this species)                     --      ca. 25 m high and 1,200 m long and    --      Damp         cultivated   -        tourism through improved       +       created in the     ++
Option 1                                                                     Desjará Dam ca. 60 m high and 900             fields by Lagarfljót               access and facilities                  East      during
                                                                             m long. About 13 million m3                   are affected by raised                                                    construction
                                                                             filling                                       water table.                                                              Increased
                                                                             Dam for Fljótsdalur diversion ca.                                                                                       investment in
                                                                             32 m high and 675 m long; ca. 0.5                                                                                       the East
                                                                             million m3 filling                                                                                                      Short-term
                                                                                                                                                                                                     inflation
Kárahnjú     Ca. 103 km2 submerged, including some 60 km2                    Open spaces in the highlands                  Geological                         Improved        access    to           Increase      in
kar Power    vegetation, most of which is assigned a high                    reduced by about 1,050 km2 which              formations and some                uplands and east-west                  gross domestic
Plant        conservation value. Some of the vegetated land                  are now mostly devoid of structures           archaeological                     areas joined by bridges                product, though
along with   flooded at Eyjabakkar (27 km2) fulfils conditions of            Visual effects of the principal               remains are lost due               Negative       impact     on           also increased
Fljóts-      the Ramsar convention on protecting wetlands. The               buildings and dams                            to Hálslón.                        tourists desiring long hikes           foreign debt
dalur        area is in the Nature Conservation Register.                    Dams by Kárahnjúkar similar to                Impact on reindeer                 through wide-open spaces               Employment
Power        Calving, spring grazing and spring migration of                 those in Option 1 above                       hunting and grazing                Positive impact on general             opportunities
Plant        reindeer limited due to Hálslón, along with summer      ---     Dam for plant in Fljótsdalur (at      ---     Damp         cultivated   -        tourism through improved       +       created in the     ++
             and fall grazing due to reservoir at Eyjabakkar                 Eyjabakkar), up to 26 m high and              fields by Lagarfljót               access and facilities                  East      during
Option 2     Some nesting area of Anser            brachyrhynchus            about 3.6 km long; ca. 1.5 million            are affected by raised                                                    construction
             flooded by Hálslón (for about 1.6 % of the total                m3 filling                                    water table.                                                              Increased
             Icelandic breeders in this species). Moulting site at                                                                                                                                   investment in
             Eyjabakkar - largest known for the species in the                                                                                                                                       the East
             world - is destroyed.                                                                                                                                                                   Short-term
                                                                                                                                                                                                     inflation




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                                                                                           PRINCIPAL ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS
 ALTER-
 NATIVES                                                                                                                          Land use and points of           Accessibility and
                      Flora and fauna                                                Landscape                                                                                                           Economy and society
                                                                                                                                  interest                         tourism/outdoor recreation
                      Main impact                                            Value   Main impact                          Value   Main impact              Value   Main impact                   Value   Main impact         Value
 Jökulsá     á                      2
                      About 123 km of land submerged, including more                 Open spaces in the highlands                 Geological                       Improved      access     to           Increase      in
 Dal                  than 60 km2 of vegetation, most of which is assigned           reduced by about 1,050 km2 which             formations and some              uplands and east-west                 gross domestic
 developed at         a high value for preservation. Some vegetated land             are now mostly devoid of man-                archaeological                   areas joined by bridges               product, though
 four levels;         flooded by reservoir at Eyjabakkar (27 km2) fulfils            made structures                              remains are lost due             Negative impact on tourists           also increased
 Fljótsdalur          conditions of Ramsar convention on protecting                  Visual effects of the principal              to Hálslón.                      desiring long hikes through           foreign debt
 Power Plant          wetlands. Area in Nature Conservation Register.                buildings and dams                           Impact on reindeer               wide-open spaces                      Employment
                      Calving, spring grazing and spring migration of                Dams by Kárahnjúkar similar to               hunting and grazing              Positive impact on general            opportunities
 Option 3             reindeer limited due to Hálslón, along with summer
                                                                             ----
                                                                                     those in Option 1 above
                                                                                                                          ----
                                                                                                                                  Hay     fields    and
                                                                                                                                                           -
                                                                                                                                                                   tourism through improved
                                                                                                                                                                                                 +
                                                                                                                                                                                                         created in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ++
                      and fall grazing due to reservoir at Eyjabakkar                Dam for plant in Fljótsdalur (at             pasture     lost   in            access and facilities                 East      during
                      Some nests (about 3%) of Anser brachyrhynchus                  Eyjabakkar), up to 26 m high and             Jökuldalur                                                             construction
                      flooded by Hálslón or reservoirs in Jökuldalur.                about 3.6 km long; ca. 1.5 million                                                                                  Increased
                      Moulting site at Eyjabakkar - largest known for the            m3 filling                                                                                                          investment in
                      species in the world - is destroyed.                           Three additional dams across                                                                                        the East
                                                                                     Jökulsá á Dal affect landscape in                                                                                   Short-term
                                                                                     the lowlands; volume of fill                                                                                        inflation
                                                                                     unknown
 Zero Option          Natural evolution of vegetation and fauna                      Wide-open spaces stay free of                No diminishing of                No impact on tourists                 Continued
 Current                                                                             dams and reservoirs                          geological formations            desiring long hikes through           stagnation     or
 utilisation                                                                                                                      or      archaeological           wide-open spaces                      downtrend in
                                                                                                                                  remains                                                                the economic
                                                                                                                                  No      change      of                                                 and        social
                                                                             0                                            0       environment        for   0                                     0       development of      ----
                                                                                                                                  reindeer            or                                                 the East as long
                                                                                                                                  agriculture                                                            as no other
                                                                                                                                                                                                         ways are found
                                                                                                                                                                                                         to       achieve
                                                                                                                                                                                                         development
Options for comparison are contrasted (+ or -) to the zero alternative, which receives a neutral grade (0).




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8.5.2   COMPARISON          OF    IMPACT       OF    THE     MAIN      ENVIRONMENTAL
        FACTORS

        This section compares effects of the environmental factors which are related to
        Options 1, 2 and 3 for hydroelectric development, and are considered most
        significant.
        Land submerged under reservoirs
        In Options 2 and 3, a great deal more territory is lost under water than in Option 1,
        whose differential from Option 2 amounts to some 37 km2 and from Option 3 around
        57 km2. As a result of the reservoir at Eyjabakkar in Options 2 and 3, 27 km2 of
        flourishing wetlands would be flooded by water. This area, which meets the
        conditions of the Ramsar convention on conservation of wetlands, is in the Nature
        Conservation Register and is one of the 68 locations in Iceland that are considered
        internationally important.
        Impact on pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus)
        Due to Hálslón reservoir, which is a component of every option, 1.6% of the total
        number of nests of pink-footed geese in Iceland would be flooded. If Option 3 is
        selected, a similar number of this goose’s nests in addition would be submerged in
        the valley Jökuldalur, in all about 3%. It is not regarded as certain that the loss of
        nesting sites due to Hálslón would lead to a drop in the total population.
        The vegetated area diminished by a reservoir at Eyjabakkar in options No. 2 and 3 is
        the largest known moulting spot for pink-footed geese in the world, and the
        reservoir’s impact on the goose’s moulting sites is considered noteworthy at the
        global level.
        Impact on reindeer
        Whereas Hálslón reservoir will encroach upon the calving grounds of reindeer, along
        with their spring pastures and migrations, the reservoir at Eyjabakkar would affect to
        some extent their summer grazing and autumn migrations, so that the impact of
        Options 2 and 3 weighs greater on reindeer than Option 1.
        Modification of open spaces
        While Option 1 will cut back open space by some 925 km2, Nos. 2 and 3 will reduce
        it by about 1,050 km2.
        Visual impact
        Comparison of these alternatives for hydropower development shows that in regard
        to visual impact Option 2, with its separate plant in Fljótsdalur, adds a dam and
        reservoir at Eyjabakkar to those by Kárahnjúkar. Option 3 adds four extra dams to
        those needed for development options Nos. 1 and 2. Therefore, the visual
        modifications introduced by Options 2 and 3 are accounted much greater than in
        Option 1 because of the number of dams, larger number of reservoirs and greater
        overall area lost under water.




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        Modifications in land use and points of interest
        In respect to use of land, geological formations and some archaeological remains will
        be lost to Hálslón in every instance, and effects on reindeer hunting and grazing are
        likewise estimated to be similar for all options.
        The diversion of Jökulsá á Dal to Lagarfljót, common to Options 1 and 2, will cause
        several damp, cultivated fields to become still moister and perhaps be lost. In
        addition, Lagarfljót will contain more suspended sediment, become darker and offer
        poorer conditions for aquatic life. Option 3 would not affect groundwater tables and
        would have fewer repercussions regarding suspended sediment than the other
        options.
        Developing Jökulsá á Dal in its own channel creates three reservoirs which would
        encroach considerably on the hay fields and pastures of at least eleven farms.
        Changes in accessibility and tourism
        If accessibility and tourism are taken into consideration, tourists will in every case
        receive better accessibility to the highlands of Northeast Iceland, and to a similar
        degree. The reservoir at Eyjabakkar, involving both Options 2 and 3, would however
        cut down more than Option 1 on the open spaces available to travellers in the
        vicinity.
        Social and economic alterations
        Social and economic effects are judged to have a similar weight for the various
        alternatives regarding the power plant, although Option 3 is most favourable if
        energy capacity is viewed in isolation. The third option would produce 5,440 GWh
        per year as opposed to 4,890 for the first option and 5,090 for the second.
        Influence of the zero option
        The zero option will not affect the environment and nature, unlike plant options Nos.
        1, 2 and 3. Open spaces would remain as before, so that no impact would be felt on
        tourism. On the other hand, the zero option would impact society in that domestic
        product would not increase and the opportunities for employment associated with
        energy-consuming industry and related investments would be lost.


8.5.3   RESULTS OF COMPARING OPTIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT

        The impact of the options for development is deemed to be similar with regard to
        access to the highlands of the Northeast, tourism, geological formations, goose
        nesting and archaeological remains. In regard to other environmental factors such as
        visual effects, curtailed open space, loss of land or vegetation and effects on reindeer,
        including hunting for them and their migrations, the conclusion of assessment
        generally points most positively toward Option 1. This is however with the
        exception of the impact Options 1 and 2 have by increasing the suspended sediment
        and darkening the colour of Lagarfljót, along with raising the groundwater table
        along the riverbanks of Jökulsá í Fljótsdal and Lagarfljót.
        During comparison of the options listed above, the impact of a reservoir at
        Eyjabakkar was weighted very heavily against other aspects of the environment;
        therefore, Options 2 and 3 are not found attractive because both lead to the
        submersion of flourishing wetlands in Eyjabakkar. That area as a whole fulfils
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        conditions of the Ramsar convention on conservation of wetlands. In addition, a
        reservoir there would disrupt an important part of the world’s largest known location
        where pink-footed geese moult, so that Eyjabakkar is assigned international
        significance.
        For these reasons, the conclusion reached by comparison is that Option 1,
        Kárahnjúkar Power Plant, has more satisfactory impact on the environment than
        Options 2 and 3, and hence it was selected by Landsvirkjun as its choice for
        developing hydropower. The environmental impact of the plant is dealt with in
        greater detail in Sections 9 to 13.

8.6     PROVIDING ENERGY BY OTHER MEANS
        It has been contemplated whether other alternatives than those already mentioned in
        Section 8 might be utilised outside East Iceland to generate electricity for energy-
        intensive industry in the East. The following passages discuss potential power
        sources elsewhere in Iceland - firstly hydro and secondly geothermal power - that
        have been reviewed by electricity producers and that might serve instead of
        Kárahnjúkar Power Plant.


8.6.1   FURTHER OPTIONS - HYDROPOWER PLANTS

        The other options for hydroelectric development believed at this stage to be feasible
        are presented in Table 8.3, in which figures for power and energy are estimates
        based on current information.

        Table 8.3        Hydropower plants.
                                        Power   Energy    Possible
         Plant option                                                  Comments
                                        (MW)    (GWh/a)   start-up
         Efri-Þjórsá
          Diversion of Kvísl, Phase 6           130       2004         Research carried on for 20-
          Diversion at Norðlingaalda                                   30 years
          Extension of Sigalda          50      900       2004-2005    Formal EIA not begun

         Tungnaá
          Plant at Búðarháls            110     540       2004-2005    Project completely designed
                                                                       and EIA now being
                                                                       reviewed by Planning
                                                                       Agency
         Neðri-Þjórsá
          Plant at Núpur                130     950       2006-2007    Project design and EIA for
          Plant at Urriðafoss           115     825       2006-2007    both options still in their
                                                                       beginning stages
         Vestari-Jökulsá in
         Skagafjörður
          Plant at Skatastaðir          180     1290      2009         Still in preliminary
                                        35      180       2005         investigation
          Plant at Villinganes                                         Project design maturing
          Diversion of Skaftá                   500       2007         At initial design stage




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8.6.2   FURTHER OPTIONS - GEOTHERMAL PLANTS

        Other options worthy of consideration which involve the development of geothermal
        energy are shown in Table 8.4.

        Table 8.4        Geothermal plants.
                                               Power     Energy      Possible
         Plant option                                                            Comments
                                               (MW)      (GWh/a)     start-up

         Enlarging Krafla
            Krafla 2: In preparation            40         320         2005      EIA being processed
            Krafla 3: Possible addition         80         480           ?       Uncertainty on energy
                                                                                 capacity and
                                                                                 environmental impact;
                                                                                 research beginning

         Námafjall (Bjarnarflag)
            Bjarnarflag 1: In preparation       40         320         2006      EIA being processed
            Bjarnarflag 2: Possible addition    40         400           ?       Uncertainty on energy
                                                                                 capacity and
                                                                                 environmental impact
         Þeystareykir
            Probable phase                      30         240         2005      Uncertainty on energy
            Possible addition                   50         400         2010      capacity and
                                                                                 environmental impact




8.6.3   CONCLUSION ON POTENTIONAL ALTERNATIVE POWER SOURCES

        The first phase of Kárahnjúkar Power Plant, as mentioned above, will be able to
        generate about 3,800 GWh annually and the second phase some 1,090 GWh annually
        - altogether approximately 4,900 GWh per year. No option outside the East can
        provide equivalent power from one plant. Attempting to substitute the options in
        Tables 8.3 and 8.4 for the Kárahnjúkar plant would involve a large number of
        projects in two regions of the country, along with construction of high-voltage lines,
        including highland lines transmitting from the plant to consumers. Moreover, the
        upshot of such a solution would be vastly higher cost.
        During the last decade changes took place in methods of research and preparation for
        geothermal power plants. Now, instead of expecting to complete construction at a
        high-temperature area in one phase, or in very few steps, the leading idea is to
        harness the heat in rather small steps, evaluating after each stage - with reference to
        experience and data derived from monitoring operations - whether the geothermal
        field will support further exploitation. If this seems to be the case, the next step is
        determined, then the following step, and so on until the entire capacity of the
        geothermal site has been put to use. For this reason, one might say there is more
        uncertainty about capacity as well as schedules for geothermal than hydropower
        plants, which is a disadvantage when contracts must be closed on energy sales at a
        definite time.

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      Using the energy from Kárahnjúkar Power Plant in East Iceland minimises the
      construction of high-voltage transmission lines from the plant. Transmitting energy
      from South or North Iceland to the East would require such lines, probably following
      the same routes as the lines over Sprengisandur and to Fljótsdalur described in the
      explanations accompanying the plans for the central highlands7. The identical routes
      would probably be followed in the opposite direction if energy from the Kárahnjúkar
      plant was to be used outside the East. Energy transported from Northeast Iceland
      would demand the building of a new line in addition to the current grid connecting
      settled regions.
      Providing energy to the intended aluminium plant in the East, or to a corresponding
      market, by other means than developing Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal is
      therefore not a realistic alternative because of the following points:
         • A number of power plants would have to be constructed in South and North
            Iceland instead of Kárahnjúkar Power Plant.
         • Transmission routes of the electricity would be a great deal longer and more
            scattered, occasioning loss of energy on the way.
         • Costs would rise.
         • The overall environmental impact of the power plants and transmission lines
            would spread over the country and thereby become appreciable.
      One must keep in mind that, simultaneously with the planned construction of
      Kárahnjúkar Power Plant, other energy needs in Iceland will have to be met. The
      yearly increase on the general market nowadays amounts to 60 GWh, of which the
      majority of demand is in the Southwest. In that corner of the island industrial plants
      are in operation with permits to expand, and the obvious way to solve their needs
      would be with power production in the same region of the island.

8.7   POSSIBILITIES FOR FUTURE USE OF THE HIGHLANDS
      NORTH OF VATNAJÖKULL
      If neither Kárahnjúkar Power Plant nor energy-intensive industry is established in the
      East, future prospects change for the highlands north of Vatnajökull. In its responses
      to the proposal for EIA, the Planning Agency requested that a detailed analysis be
      provided of potential future use of the area, stating that a discussion of the possible
      founding of a national park there should be included.
      Several concepts for future use of the uplands north of Vatnajökull will now be
      described, along with their possible influence on the environment. The attitude is not
      that selecting one of these choices rules out other possibilities, but rather that they
      can go hand in hand to some extent.
      The main environmental effects of these possibilities are presented and compared,
      with regard to landscape, flora, fauna, use of land, geology, tourism, outdoor
      recreation and economic or social factors.



      7
          Ministry of the Environment and Planning Agency. Svæðisskipulag Miðhálendis Íslands 2015.
          1999.
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8.7.1   PRODUCTION OF ENERGY (KÁRAHNJÚKAR POWER PLANT)

        The proposed plant plan is based on the concept of utilising a portion of the
        highlands to generate electricity, parallel to an appropriate increase in tourism
        through the area, i.e. within its carrying capacity. Extracting energy has the effects
        below:
          • reduction of barely touched expanses of land, along with impact on landscape
            due to dams, reservoirs, diversions and modified river flow
          • loss of vegetated areas, in particular due to Hálslón reservoir
          • reduced space for reindeer and some impact on pink-footed geese
          • geological formations disappear under Hálslón
          • improved access to the highlands along with roads over the dams to connect
            areas to the east and west
          • positive impact on tourism and travellers who desire better access and service
          • negative impact on travellers preferring to visit uninhabited spaces of Iceland
          • positive effect on the society and economy of the East
          • potential of combining power development with a national park (see below).


8.7.2   PRESENT        UTILISATION:             UNINHABITED           SPACES,       FAUNA,
        AGRICULTURE, LIMITED TRAFFIC, TRIPS WITHOUT VEHICLES

        Continuing to use the region in the present manner leaves it uninhabited and the
        effects on highland ecology limited to the grazing of sheep and reindeer along with
        tourists passing through the area. Perhaps agriculture will increase, though nature
        sets limits to pasturing. The following points apply:
          • untouched expanses not segmented by roads, dams and reservoirs
          • natural evolution of vegetation, fauna and interesting sites
          • glacial rivers still hindering travel between areas east and west
          • limited development of tourism in the area, with those choosing non-motor
            travel still enjoying journeys through uninhabited places
          • continued downswing in economic and social trends of the East, unless new
            opportunities appear.


8.7.3   THE TOURIST INDUSTRY

        Another solution for regional economic progress is to build up tourism in a big way.
        If job opportunities in tourism were to be increased significantly in connection with
        the highlands, there would be a risk of excessive impact on the environment;
        moreover, one must bear in mind that tourism is highly seasonal. Here are items to
        consider:
          • More facilities for travellers (service and accommodation sites, roads etc.)
            diminish uninhabited spaces.



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          • Finance of some kind would have to be found for improving access to and
            through the highlands - trails and bridges to connect areas east and west - along
            with facilities for service and accommodation.
          • An upswing in tourism through the highlands would strengthen business in the
            East.
          • Vegetation, wildlife, and the experience of those travellers wishing to hike
            through uninhabited reaches would deteriorate due to increased pressure on the
            land (erosion, hiking paths, bridle trails and so on).

8.7.4   OTHER TYPES OF DEVELOPMENT FOR THE REGION

        Other forms of regional development would be confined for the most part to the
        lowlands, with limited influence on the upland segment. Possibilities involved might
        be increasing jobs in some kind of industry, service or forestry, which is already an
        expanding field of local employment.


8.7.5   NATIONAL PARK

        Establishing a national park maintains the present situation in uninhabited areas,
        while impact on the ecosystem of the highlands would be restricted to grazing, and
        damage by tourists passing through, as well as natural changes in vegetation. The
        idea of a national park is treated in Section 8.8, but here are points to consider:
          • uninhabited expanses, not divided up by roads, dams or reservoirs
          • natural evolution of flora, fauna and interesting sites
          • necessity of financing by some means improved access to and through the
            highlands - trails and bridges to connect areas to the east and west - as well as
            service and accommodation facilities
          • positive impact of improved access and service on tourism, while those opting
            for long hikes would still enjoy extensive uninhabited spaces
          • continued weakening or stagnation of economic and social development in East
            Iceland, so long as employment opportunities were not supplemented.

8.8     IDEAS ON A NATIONAL PARK IN THE HIGHLANDS BY
        VATNAJÖKULL
        There has long been discussion of the possibility of founding a national park in the
        highlands adjacent to Vatnajökull, with several ideas being proposed for its location
        and size.
        The Icelandic government has already approved the objective of founding a
        Vatnajökull National Park in 2002, on the basis of boundaries following the edge of
        the glacier and Skaftafell National Park, as illustrated in Figure 8.2. Member of
        parliament Hjörleifur Guttormsson presented a motion for a resolution there in 1998
        on establishing a national park, whose borders are also shown in Figure 8.2. In
        1999, the Nature Conservation Society of East Iceland presented the suggestion of



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founding a national park at Snæfell, the margins of which are also shown in Figure
8.2.




Figure 8.2    Ideas for national parks.
Hydroelectric development and national parks operate in coexistence in many parts
of the world, so that construction of Kárahnjúkar Power Plant does not necessarily
preclude the founding of a national park at Snæfell and/or Vatnajökull. In [V21], for
instance, the conclusion is reached that the proposed plant could be consistent with a

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Vatnajökull National Park on the basis of defined ecosystems and of varying degrees
of protection for different zones. The same holds if a national park were founded at
Snæfell, or if that region was incorporated into a Vatnajökull park.
As far as instituting a national park around Snæfell is concerned (Figure 8.3), it is
apparent that if the proposed power plant came into being, the extent of park lands
would have to be somewhat smaller than the largest figures that have been
prop+osed. On September 29, 2000, ideas were expressed at a conference of the
National Association for the Protection of the Icelandic Environment that a public
recreation area might be created in which environmental preservation was
maintained without total rejection of hydropower development. The proposal
envisaged, inside such an area, the later possibility of establishing a national park,
where there would be no power structures. The possible boundaries of such a park
are drawn into Figure 8.2 as a red line.




Figure 8.3    View over Folavatn lake and part of Eyjabakkar wetlands toward Mt.
              Snæfell.




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