Aspen councilman: Let voters have a say on dams
November 15, 2016
Councilman Bert Myrin said Monday he wants to give Aspen voters the opportunity to block the building of dams on Castle and Maroon creeks if such a scenario arises.
Myrin, speaking at a City Council meeting, asked fellow Aspen elected officials to lend their support to bring a Home Rule Charter amendment question to voters in May.
The ballot question, Myrin said, would concern allowing residents in the future to petition resolutions made in the form of administrative actions by the City Council. Voters currently can petition council-approved ordinances but not resolutions. Successful petitions can result in council decisions being ultimately favored or rejected by Aspen's electorate.
Myrin's announcement came after the City Council unanimously approved a resolution Oct. 10 to renew its water rights on Castle and Maroon creeks. The decision would allow the City Council in the future to vote on a resolution approving the building of dams on the two pristine creeks.
City officials, however, have said that dam construction would only be done in an extreme scenario in which climate change would deplete Aspen's water supply. One worst-case situation would be if Aspen's population nearly triples and reaches its projected 17,000 head-count by 2066, with the creeks unable to fully service the city's residents.
Council members as well as city officials also have said that preserving the water rights would stop another interest from taking them in the future.
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Despite the council's vote last month, the water-rights renewals are not a done deal and require court approval.
Earlier this month, the city filed legal papers with the District 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs seeking permission to renew the water rights.
Conservation groups have criticized the city's move, saying it was done with the chief objective to dam the two creeks.
"Even if the population of Aspen triples to more than 17,000 (growth that is likely far outside the community's desired future) and climate change causes significant change in the runoff pattern, there will still be plenty of water for the citizens of Aspen," Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop said in a statement earlier this month.
Myrin, who voted in support of renewing the rights, said he wants the Home Rule Charter amendment to give voters the "final checkpoint" should a council approve a resolution to build dams, "whether it's next year, five, 10 or 20 years" from now.
Council members did not respond to Myrin's plea for support to put the matter on the May ballot.
"I need to know by the next meeting if there is support for this," Myrin said.