Proposals for a river diversion at Norđlingaalda have been rejected for environmental reasons. The construction of the diversion would entail damming the river Ţjórsá 8 km downstream from the Ţjórsárver Nature Reserve. The flow of waterfalls in the river Ţjórsá would be reduced by 40%, in addition to the 30% reduction caused by the construction of the Kvíslar Diversion a quarter of a century ago.
- Norđlingaalda diversion
The River Ţjórsá
Landsvirkjun has proposed to construct three power plants in the river Ţjórsá. Originally, all electricity produced at these power plants was to be sold to Rio Tinto Alcan Iceland Ltd. for the projected extensions of the Straumsvík Aluminum Plant. In a referendum on the proposed extension in 2007, the citizens of Hafnarfjörđur township rejected the proposals, and since then, Landsvirkjun has tried to engage other possible buyers for this energy. One example is the proposed aluminum plant in Helgavík, but permission for its construction has as of yet not been granted. There is a further proposal for a river diversion – the Norđlingaalda diversion – 8 km downstream from the Ţjórsárver natural reserve, but this proposal has been classified protected. Nearby, in the river Tungnaá, proposals for the Búđarháls power plant have been given the green light and classified as exploitable.
The three proposed power plants in the lower reaches of the river Ţjórsá, namely Hvammur Power Plant, Holt Power Plant and Urriđafoss Power Plant, are currently all classified as awaiting further assessment according to the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources. In the initial phase of the Master Plan, all three were classified as exploitable, but in the spring of 2012 when the Master Plan was ratified by parliament, it was decided to reclassify the proposals as awaiting further assessment, and to have the matter looked into more closely before reaching a decision.
Landsvirkjun‘s plans for harnessing the river Ţjórsá have caused a great deal of division and disputes among the inhabitants of the river‘s surrounding areas. In some cases, entire families have become divided because of the issue, and the communal spirit in these communities has suffered.
Power plant construction would endanger the area‘s natural beauty and disrupt the river‘s harmonious environs.
Three waterfalls in the river would be destroyed, namely Búđi, Hestfoss and Urriđafoss. The waterfalls would be forever silenced, thus greatly altering the experience of visiting the area. Since time immemorial, people have listened to the sound of the river Ţjórsá, for example at Búđi waterfall and the Núpsflúđir rapids, to make weather predictions – and they continue to do so today.
Great disruption could also be caused to the river‘s unique ecosystem, and the risk of erosion and dust pollution would be greatly increased due to the river bed partially drying up from diminished water flow.
In addition, construction would take place near the country‘s most productive agricultural region and in the immediate vicinity of inhabited areas. Agricultural land would be lost to reservoirs, roads and other construction in relation to the power plants.
The Ţjórsárver wetlands are some of the most important in Iceland. The construction of the Norđlingaalda Diversion would destroy this area. Ţjórsárver is on the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance, as well as making the list of Important Bird Areas (IBA), besides being considered one of the most important wetlands in Northern Europe.
The construction of the Norđlingaalda Diversion entails damming the river Ţjórsá approximately 8 km downstream from the Ţjórsárver natural reserve, thus forming a reservoir with an area of roughly 5 km˛. From there, a tunnel would channel water to Lake Ţórisvatn. The Norđlingaalda Diversion is therefore not a power plant as such, but is meant to divert a portion of the Ţjórsá river flow to Lake Ţórisvatn, Landsvirkjun‘s main water reservoir, so that more power can be generated at power plants in Vatnsfell, Sigalda, Hrauneyjafoss and Búđarháls.