The rivers East and West Jökulsá in Skagafjörđur and their river basins are considered one of Iceland’s most valuable areas as far as culture, geological formations, waterways, biodiversity, ecosystems and soil are concerned. If Landsvirkjun’s proposals for a power plant at Villinganes are realized, both rivers would be dammed. The estimated lifetime of the power plant would not exceed 80 years.
Villinganes Power Plant
Rivers East and West Jökulsá in Skagafjörđur
- Villinganes Power Plant
Rivers Jökulsár in Skagafjörđur
Landsvirkjun has plans to build power plants in the twin rivers Jökulsár in Skagafjörđur. The Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources lists three power proposals in the area, namely Skatastađir Power Plant B, Skatastađir Power Plant C and Villinganes Power Plant, but all three await further assessment.
The rivers and their drainage basins are highly valued for the area‘s cultural relics, geological features and their related phenomena, water conditions, rare animal and plant species, ecosystem and soil.
Power plant construction in the rivers Jökulsár in Skagafjörđur would endanger the wetlands in the fjord‘s lowland areas. The wetlands are formed of sediment deposited by the glacial rivers, that slowly but unceasingly carry glacial debris, sand and mud to sea.
Photo © Hlynur Stefánsson
The area known as Austara-Eylendiđ in the Hérađsvötn lake district encompasses some of Iceland‘s, and Scandinavia‘s, largest marshes. The wetlands around Miklavatn lake in Skagafjörđur form part of a nature reserve.
The construction of the Villinganes Power Plant or other power plants in the rivers Jökulsár in Skagafjörđur would adversely affect the area‘s ecosystem and endanger wetlands in the Skagafjörđur lowland areas.
In the highlands north of Hofsjökull glacier lie Orravatnsrústir – A unique expanse of tundra and former farmstead listed by the European Council. The conservation of the area is of international significance.
Numerous archeological sites are found in the area, many of them protected, e.g. Einlćkjarrústir, Hrafnsstađir, Hringanes, Hraunţúfuklaustur, Tunga, Kolgrímsstađir, Sandgil, Selsvellir and Öxl.
The Villinganes Power Plant would have an unforeseeable impact on archeological remains in the canyons where it would be built.
In its 2004-2008 Nature Conservation Outline, the Environmental Agency of Iceland proposed that Orravatnsrústir and Austara-Eylandiđ be designated a nature reserve, and that Fagrahlíđ in Austurdalur be protected as a farmstead. The agency reiterated its proposal for the conservation of Orravatnsrústir in its 2009-2013 Nature Conservation Outline.
Landsvirkjun plans to harness 33 MW of energy with the construction of the Villinganes Power Plant. The flow of both the eastern and western Jökulsár rivers in Skagafjörđur would be dammed just below the rivers‘ confluence, across from the farms of Villinganes and Tyrfingastađir.
If these plans come to fruition, the canyons will be flooded. Power production at the plant is deemed possible for at most 80 years, by which time the canyons will already have filled up with sediment. 80 years falls well short of standards for sustainable energy resources, and thus contravenes Iceland‘s official policy for natural resource development.