Aspen hydro project prompts diversion study |

Aspen hydro project prompts diversion study

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners on Tuesday backed spending $50,000 from the county’s Healthy Rivers and Streams fund to develop a protocol for diverting water out of Castle and Maroon creeks for the city of Aspen’s proposed hydro-electric plant on Castle Creek.

The result will be something that can be applied to other transbasin diversions, according to John Ely, county attorney. The city’s project, which would divert water from Maroon Creek that would not be returned, constitutes a transbasin transfer of water, he said.

Commissioner Jack Hatfield questioned the expenditure, though he ultimately said he would support it. “Why wouldn’t the city pay for this, as opposed to the county?” he asked.

The information will be useful when additional diversions are proposed in the headwaters of Pitkin County, predicted Commissioner Rachel Richards. And, she said, the city contributes to the tax revenue that supports the Healthy Rivers and Streams fund.

Both creeks are both located primarily in the unincorporated county, Commissioner Michael Owsley added.

“I don’t think this is really a city issue,” he said.

The county’s rivers fund, overseen by an appointed citizen board that unanimously supported the expenditure, last year spent $50,000 on a study of the city’s hydro project. Its conclusions helped convince the city to submit the project for a more stringent federal environmental review.

“I think that first expenditure was, frankly, well-advised,” Ely said.

The results of the new study will be forwarded to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its review of the project, he said.

The intention is to employ both the hydrologist and the biologist who worked on the county’s initial study, building on work they’ve already done.

“They actually started down that path and stopped,” Ely said.

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