The construction of a power plant at Gýgjarfoss waterfall could influence the flow of Gullfoss waterfall and possibly change its appearance, as the location of the proposed power plant would be above the waterfall. Furthermore, disruption would inevitably be caused to the area’s habitat types soil and landscape.
Gýgjarfoss Power Plant
Jökulfall in Árnessysla
- Gýgjarfoss Power Plant
Rivers Hvítá and Jökulkvísl in Árnessýsla County
Proposals exist for no fewer than six power plants in the rivers Hvítá and Jökulkvísl (also known as Jökulfall) in Árnessýsla County. Four of these proposals await further assessment, namely the Búđartunga, Haukholt, Vörđufell and Hestvatn power plants, while the other two, Gýgjarfoss and Bláfell, are classified as protected. These last two are also the most controversial, as they entail damming above the famous Gullfoss waterfall and might adversely affect its flow.
A number of natural wonders are found in the Hvítá river basin, including Hvítárvatn lake and the Hvítárnes peninsula, Hvítárgljúfur canyon, Pollengi, Tunguey and Höfđaflatir. Four locales are protected: Ţórarinsstađir, Laugahvammur, Búđarárbakki and Tjarnarrústin.
In its 2004-2008 Environmental Protection Outline, the Environmental Agency of Iceland put forth proposals for the conservation of Hvítárvatn lake, Hvítárnes peninsula, Karlsdráttur, the Brúará river, Skálholtstunga and Höfđaflatir. Skálholtstunga and Höfđaflatir are relatively untouched marshlands near the river Hvítá. Pollengi and Tunguey are also marshlands, and are of great importance for birdlife and vegetation in the area. Most marshlands in South Iceland are either damaged or have been drained.
It is also thought important to keep the Hvítá river basin below Gullfoss waterfall free of power plant construction (Haukholt, Vörđufell, Hestvatn and Selfoss), one reason being the importance for birds of many areas around the river, e.g. the Ölfusá river delta. The river is also used for river rafting. A power plant at Selfoss could furthermore have an adverse impact on fish migrations in the river Hvítá, as well as other aspects of its vast river basin.
Gýgjarfoss waterfall is in the river Jökulkvísl which is close to Kerlingarfjöll mountains. Kerlingarfjöll mountains are on the Nature Conservation Register and should therefore be protected as a whole and not be exploited.
Gýgjarfoss power plant would be 21 MW, produced by damming the river Jökulkvísl by Ásgarđsfjall mountain north of Kerlingarfjöll mountains. This would creat an almost 14 km˛ reservoir. The size of the power plant depends on plans for the Bláfell power plant going ahead at the same time.
If the proposed plans for Gýgjarfoss power plant are realized, the area's ecosystems, environment and landscape would be affected. Gullfoss waterfall would not be as powerful as the power plant would be upstream from the waterfall.