Hydro supporters play down stream impacts
September 12, 2012
I listened to a news report on Aspen Public Radio regarding the Castle Creek hydropower plant the other morning and need to respond to a couple of things that were said.
First, Jim Markalunas said that this is not a “Chicken Little situation, where the sky is falling.” He’s right, to a degree. The sky won’t fall if the plant is built, but the streams will be degraded and will change over the long run. You can’t take that much water from a stream and expect no damage. It just doesn’t happen.
The other comment was from Auden Schendler, and I must say I’m a bit surprised. Auden said, “We have to recognize here that climate change threatens everything we care about, including Castle Creek, but much more, too. And this is a great opportunity. And the creek will be OK.”
He’s right that climate change threatens Castle and Maroon creeks. That’s why it is irresponsible to bleed them even more. These streams, with their riparian and wetland ecosystems, need all the help we can give them. Increasing diversions when climate change reduces the natural water supply is not the kind of help they need. It’s like that military philosophy from Vietnam, where we had to destroy the village in order to save it.
No, the streams will not be OK. Climate change does threaten everything we care about, and that includes Castle and Maroon creeks. Dewatering these streams to the minimum streamflow for more than half the year will only degrade and damage the streams sooner. Reaching back to the 19th century for solutions to a 21st-century problem is not leadership and is not the answer.
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