City, music school reach agreement over ponds |

City, music school reach agreement over ponds

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The city of Aspen and the Aspen Music Festival and School have come to an agreement related to the school’s rights over a few ponds on its 23-acre property off Castle Creek Road southwest of Aspen.

The music school, which operates officially under the name Music Associates of Aspen Inc., is seeking a state water court decree for rights in connection with future use of the ponds and the current redevelopment of its campus. The music school owns the property and shares it with Aspen Country Day School through a lease agreement.

A proposed city resolution, which City Council members will consider Monday, states that the music school wants to modify the ponds as part of its project, confirm its water rights to fill the ponds from a spring that flows from Castle Creek and obtain an augmentation plan so that the ponds may be kept full.

The ponds will be used for irrigation, recreation, fire protection and other purposes, according to the resolution, which essentially gives the music school the city’s blessing in the matter.

There was no disagreement between the city and the school on the issue, according to Assistant City Attorney Debbie Quinn and local lawyer Mark Hamilton, who represents the music school in the matter. Basically, the city wanted to ensure that its Castle Creek water rights would remain intact should the decree take effect.

“Historically, there are some ponds out there from back in the mining days,” Hamilton said. “The ponds have been there, around the music school and Country Day School buildings, for many years.”

As the redevelopment project got under way, Hamilton said, music-school officials decided to update their water rights.

“It was determined that these ponds, even though they’ve existed physically out there for a long time, didn’t have official water rights approved for them,” he said. “On behalf of the music school, I filed for approval of these rights and for a plan where during drought periods, the music school can release water from Reudi Reservoir and keep the ponds full.”

The city sought to ensure that its senior water rights on Castle Creek wouldn’t be impacted, Hamilton said. Passage of the resolution Monday will end the city’s involvement in the music school’s Water Court case, he said.

Originally, there were four ponds on the property, and now there are three, Hamilton said. “The ponds are not too far from the creek,” he added. “Whether or not the spring is fueled by Castle Creek, the water that isn’t put into the ponds flows back into Castle Creek, so it’s all part of the same system.”

Quinn said the city’s water attorney, Cynthia Covell, of Denver, keeps track of notices filed with state Water Court to determine if anything might affect Aspen’s water rights.

“In general, it’s OK if you get those water rights as long as our water rights are protected,” Quinn said. Though the city filed a “statement of opposition” in the music school’s case, that’s just a standard term of notification of the city’s interest.

“Once those objections are filed, they’re usually resolved by all the parties through negotiations to come up with a solution that allows, the Music Associates in this instance, to get the water rights that it’s requesting without causing any other damage to users along the same water source.”

The first phase of the joint redevelopment initiative of the Aspen Music Festival and School and Aspen Country Day School is nearing completion.

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