Aspen mayoral candidates’ views on hydro plant |

Aspen mayoral candidates’ views on hydro plant

Maurice Emmer

The six candidates for Aspen mayor are Maurice Emmer, L.J. Erspamer, Adam Frisch, Derek Johnson, Steve Skadron and Torre. Check The Aspen Times this week, Monday through Friday, to see where the candidates stand on a variety of issues.

Today’s question: The controversial Castle Creek hydroelectric-power project was defeated in a nonbinding referendum in November. If elected, would you be opposed to or supportive of an initiative to restart the project over the next two years?

Maurice Emmer

I would not support reviving the project. In 2007, a tiny turnout (798 total votes) approved a bond issue for the project with virtually no analysis of the costs and environmental aspects. Project proponents call that a “binding” vote on the project, but actually it was only an approval of a bond issue with scant information.

In November 2012, after huge cost overruns and exposure of the poor planning and execution of the project, City Council put a measure on the ballot. The council refused to present the citizens with a simple question, “continue the project yes or no.” Instead, City Council loaded the measure with subjective language intended to influence the voters. Shame on City Council. The mayor and other project proponents leveled false charges of manipulation by dark forces without an ounce of evidence.

Despite these dirty tactics, the citizens instructed the city to stop the project. This time there were 2,044 “no” votes, more than 2.5 times the total votes cast in 2007. And the 2012 vote was preceded by extensive education of the public by both sides of the debate, the kind of voter education that should have happened in 2007.

The citizens have spoken at the polls against continuing the project. City Council should respect the public’s decision and stop the project. As mayor, I would oppose any effort to continue the project. I would oppose any effort to manipulate public opinion using public resources.

L.J. Erspamer

If elected, I would not propose starting the hydropower project unless we have undeniably accurate and proven data on the whole project that shows this to be a feasible investment.

Many people voted against this issue because the city didn’t follow proper procedure in developing this project. This process was not transparent and didn’t follow good business procedures. This is why oversight of government by City Council is so important. Oversight will be accomplished by regular reports in work sessions before any element of this process is to be continued.

The mayor and council need to hear from a proven reliable independent source about how this project could proceed in a successful manner as well as an accurate estimate of costs and repayment over time. This will take time to accomplish and probably most likely would last longer than the term of the mayor.

Adam Frisch

I am opposed to resurrecting the hydropower project. The community has spoken. The hydro plant was voted down. The technicality of “a nonbinding referendum” is irrelevant; there is not a single person who would have changed their vote — for or against — if it was legally binding or not.

I signed the petition to place the question on the ballot and I voted against continuing the project due to significant cost overruns, lack of accountability and the environmental hypocrisy of the city. Sound execution and fiscal responsibility are imperative for a project to receive my support. While I am a firm proponent of the city’s environmental goals, the hydroplant project is too problematic.

The city is on the right path to achieving a 100 percent renewable energy profile by 2015. City Council recently gave direction to staff to purchase energy production from a hydroplant that is starting construction this spring in Ridgway, Colo. City Hall is now more receptive to valley and regionally produced solar energy options. And, a world-renowned energy conservation expert, Amory Lovins, has agreed to work with City Hall on implementing a better energy-conservation policy.

As mayor, I will continue to move forward on the renewable-energy path. I will continue to support renewable energy projects that make financial sense, are executed well and make sense for our environmentally conscious community.

Derek Johnson

support the continued evaluation of this project. If the citizens of Aspen decide in the future that we, as a community, should complete this project, I would support it. As long as the financial models are sound, the environmental issues and permitting are in agreement and our water rights are intact.

On a parallel course, I support our community’s goals of utilizing 100 percent renewable power options for the city’s electricity utility. This includes greater conservation goals and new sources.

Steve Skadron

My goal is to see Aspen’s electric utility portfolio consist of 100 percent renewable energy from local and nonlocal sources. Today, the city is considering options to get us there, exclusive of the hydro plant, that didn’t previously exist.

It’s not my intention to disregard the outcome of the advisory vote, but should all other options fail to satisfy our 100 percent goal, hydro should, at the very least, be reconsidered.


I respect the recent vote on the hydro plant. We will pursue conservation and efficiencies over production. I would like the broader discussions to continue, both about renewable energy and stream health related to diversions, both existing and possible future. The city now should make information available and start discussions about alternatives.

But all Aspenites need to be aware of the threats to the health of our regional headwaters and our sustainable environment. I think the city should collaborate with the experts and residents to achieve our shared goals of 100 percent renewable energy and environmental stewardship. I will provide true environmental leadership.


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