The "no" vote on the proposed Castle Creek hydro plant gives Aspen the chance to re-engage the discussion on hydropower and renewable energy. It also gives us a chance to heal some unfortunate wounds, reuniting both Aspen and the environmental community toward a common goal.
We all support the city of Aspen's goals in becoming a 100 percent-renewable-energy community and reducing both greenhouse-gas emissions and the impacts from global warming. That has never been an issue.
Hydropower done right can be a realistic, cost-effective and environmentally responsible 21st century option. Organizations such as American Rivers, the Hydropower Reform Coalition, Trout Unlimited and the Western Rivers Institute have a lot of expertise in stream-ecosystem health and responsible hydropower development.
The city plans to have discussions on where to go from here in January. I hope those discussions will include a wide range of community and environmental interests. Developing responsible renewable energy and reducing our carbon footprint should be an inclusive, community effort, not a "my way or the highway" dogfight. As Ward Hauenstein said at the City Council meeting, we need to take a "fresh look" and come together to resolve these issues.
We have an opportunity now to look at the whole picture of renewable-energy options, options that help mitigate the impacts of climate change and truly protect those ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change. We need to look at the whole system of our energy needs and uses as well as where that energy comes from.
Money wasn't the reason the hydro plant lost at the polls. Genuine concern about Castle and Maroon creeks and concern about the path Aspen was taking were. Aspen has a chance now to redirect its efforts and work creatively with everyone.
I trust that in January, Aspen will heed the advice of its residents and take that chance.