Hydro plant? Slim chance
A lack of water rights isn’t the only thing that may jeopardize the Castle Creek hydropower project.
Aspen resident Dick Butera hinted at issues with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in his statements quoted in The Aspen Times on June 28, 2011.
One probable FERC issue may be that in order to get a conduit exemption for a hydropower plant, “the conduit has to have been constructed primarily for purposes other than power production,” according to regulations posted on the FERC’s website.
Despite the parade of horribles emanating from City Hall about dam safety as the primary purpose behind it, the construction of the Thompson Reservoir pipeline appears in lock-step with the proposed power plant. All moneys expended to date are consequently at risk under the conduit exemption procedure should the project not be approved.
Likewise, approval by FERC of a small hydropower exemption is questionable, given the language on the regulatory agency’s website: “Small hydropower projects … that will be built at an existing dam, or projects that utilize a natural water feature for head or an existing project that has a capacity of 5 megawatts or less and proposes to increase capacity.”
Given that, it’s possible the only remaining hope this project can be completed may rest on the status of the old Castle Creek hydro plant, and whether it still has generating capacity intact that would conform to the regulations.
There’s been some closed-door meetings about the project lately, as well as much recent obfuscation of the facts concerning a change in the application for an exemption from federal regulations. Those two things together don’t spell transparency in government.
If it is of any comfort to interested parties, should a small project exemption be issued in this case, the Colorado Division of Wildlife will control the water flow through the plant.
A brief rundown of FERC conduit and small plant exemptions can be found on the web at http://www.ferc.gov/industries/