MOSCOW, December 24 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) - The construction of an Icelandic highway has resumed after having reportedly been halted due to the concerns of local activists about the welfare of resident elves, head of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration’s (IRCA) legal department Stefán Erlendsson told RAPSI Monday.

The AP reported Monday that the construction of a road stretching between Iceland’s Alftanes peninsula and Gardabaer had been halted pending the outcome of a claim filed with the country’s Supreme Court by a pro-elf NGO in conjunction with environmentalists based partially on concerns that the project threatened to disturb an elf habitat rendered particularly important by the presence of an elf church.

While the legal process has not yet reached completion, Erlendsson expressed confidence that the claims advanced by NGOs seeking to block the highway’s construction would be dismissed.

He explained to RAPSI that the Supreme Court already ruled in November not to submit a request for a preliminary ruling on the case by the Court of Justice of the European Free Trade Association States (EFTA Court) on the basis of standing.

In Erlendsson’s words: “That claim was rejected by the [Supreme Court]. The Court however in its ruling decided that the NGOs did not have a standing in the case according to Icelandic law. Therefore it is likely in my opinion that the claim of halting the construction will as well be dismissed on the same grounds, namely that the NGOs will not be considered having a standing in the case according to Icelandic law.”

The chief of IRCA’s legal department further confirmed that “construction has already resumed.”

A copy of the Supreme Court’s November decision obtained by RAPSI from IRCA lists among the complainants: Landvernd, Náttúruverndarsamtök Íslands, Náttúruverndarsamtök Suðvesturlands, and Hraunavinir. The first three appear to be environmental advocacy group, while only the latter seems to be affiliated with elf-related activism.

The official website of Landvernd – the Icelandic Environmental Association – describes the organization as focused on environmental issues with a primary emphasis on nature conservation.

Náttúruverndarsamtök Íslands, referred to on its official website as the Iceland Nature Conservation Association, states that its primary objectives are the conservation and protection of Icelandic wilderness, noting that the organization “heavily involved in the public debate on the sustainable and wise use of hydroelectric and geothermal resources and emphasizes their potential in the promotion of Nature conservation and tourism.”

The four groups were referred to collectively online by the Iceland Review as “environmental groups,” some English-language blogs and news outlets have referred to Hraunavinir – or Lava Friends – as a group championing elf rights.

In a piece for the Iceland Review entitled, “How Stupid are the Icelandic People?” columnist Benedikt Jóhannesson wrote that whereas the AP piece had described an “elf lobby” with the capacity of mobilizing hundreds to block bulldozers, in fact most such activists are environmentalists rather than elf-rights champions – and that their numbers fall short of the hundreds cited in the article.

A story for The Reykjavik Grapevine entitled “Environmentalists Not Elf Lobby” indicates that numerous Icelandic-language sources have taken issue with the original story – including the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RUV, which discovered “numerous misrepresentations” in the story.