Daily News story boosts untruths about hydro project | AspenTimes.com

Daily News story boosts untruths about hydro project

Dear Editor:

It is with great disappointment that officials from the city of Aspen continue to read and hear mischaracterizations about the Castle Creek Energy Center in the community. Many of these boost the untruths employed in a political fight by a tiny group of well-funded neighbors of the project and nonprofits.

The city of Aspen did not have a chance to offer its comment in a recent story published in the Aspen Daily News, “Aspen’s hydro process is criticized before Congress,” about a vocal opponent of Aspen’s Castle Creek Energy Center, Matt Rice, from American Rivers.

Rice criticized Aspen and its hydroelectric project as part of his testimony before a congressional subcommittee considering a hydroelectric bill. He is a vocal opponent of Aspen’s project and has told city staff and council members repeatedly that he and his organization will not support it. Aspen has committed publicly and repeatedly to combine energy generation with stream habitat protection – a promise that is the first of its kind in the country. This commitment will protect Maroon and Castle creeks while providing the community with clean locally generated and transmitted energy – energy the Aspen voters wanted when they approved the measures to build the plant in 2007.

Knowing Rice’s adamant position and his political agenda, Aspen takes great offense at his statements to congressional and federal representatives that the city constructed a conduit solely to seek a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission conduit exemption for the project in order to avoid environmental review and meaningful public input. This is untrue. The conduit is an emergency drainline Aspen needs to protect property and was built under the advice of our engineer. It is needed whether or not the hydroelectric project goes forward.

Regarding public input, Aspen has engaged the public since the beginning of the Castle Creek hydroelectric project. Aspen has held public meetings, posted all relevant data about the project on its website, held an election, participated in mediation with interested parties and entered into an unprecedented agreement with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife to protect the stream habitat.

Rice’s characterization of Aspen as a city intent on “bending the rules” is disingenuous at best because all along, Aspen has complied with applicable laws and regulations and taken extraordinary steps to ensure protection of fisheries and stream habitat.

Aspen has committed voluntarily to protect instream flows since 1980 and has committed to measure and address impacts the project might have on fisheries and stream habitat of Castle and Maroon creeks. Aspen is the only local water user with a concrete plan to protect streamflow. No other water user, including litigants against the city, has ever promised such protection of our rivers.

Mitzi Rapkin

City of Aspen community relations director

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