02/24/2011 05:01

Nature and Parks Authority praises decision after waging campaign to convince Israel Electric Corporation not to ruin beauty of the crater.

Power lines needed to bring electricity – particularly solar energy – up from the Negev to the center will run under the Ramon Crater and not through it, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau announced on Tuesday.

The Nature and Parks Authority immediately praised the decision. The NPA had waged a long and intensive campaign to convince the Israel Electric Corporation and the ministry not to ruin the beauty of the crater by running power lines through it.

The NPA said the IEC had been willing to consider alternatives and had already agreed to run another power line around the crater and to combine two lines into one.

With this decision, the crater will be power-line free.

“This is a holiday for the Ramon Crater, which is a unique natural phenomenon for Israel and the world and to which hundreds of thousands of tourists and visitors flock each year,” NPA Deputy Southern Region Head Gilad Gabai said in a statement.

“The NPA, in conjunction with the Fund to Rehabilitate Quarries and other infrastructure agencies, embarked on a process of rehabilitating the crater. The crater was severely damaged by quarrying and infrastructure projects over many years even before the creation of the state. This is a process which has been ongoing since the 1980s and which will conclude this coming year,” he said.

“During the discussions over burying the power line, we were able to come to agreement on many issues with IEC officials, who expressed great willingness to put forth solutions to minimize the damage to the crater. A decision was needed by the minister and we congratulate him on making it. I am convinced that by combining the professionalism of the NPA and the IEC, we will be able to advance the project and keep the human impact on nature as muted as possible,” Gabai said.

The power lines are needed in part to transfer the expected electricity produced from solar fields in the South to the rest of the country and the grid.

The crater was massively torn up in the search for raw materials over the years, but the NPA and the Quarry Rehabilitation Fund have invested a lot of time, effort and money in rehabilitating the damage and making it unnoticeable.

At one point, both sides of Route 40 running through the crater featured one quarry after another. Today, the quarries are no longer even visible.

There are also plans to connect three gigantic former quarries together and create a hiking path and natural swimming pool in them.