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Hydroelectric opponents are distorting the facts

Dear Editor:

In a recent letter to the editor asking, “What’s your definition of democracy?” two people made several claims about the city of Aspen that were just not accurate (“Be heard at March 12 City Council meeting,” March 8, The Aspen Times).

The city is not, as they claimed, dewatering Castle or Maroon creek. “Dewatering” is a pejorative word.

It’s been used by opponents of the project since their opposition began. The real facts are simple: (1) The average the hydro plant would divert from Castle Creek in one year is 13 percent of the annual flow. (2) That number is 11.9 percent for Maroon Creek. Unlike most water diversions, this one does not result in water being consumed for irrigation or domestic use – it is all returned to the Roaring Fork River via Castle Creek.

Further, the city has promised in writing and is formulating a legal agreement that states it will tie hydroelectric production to stream health, which means hydropower only happens if studies show the stream is healthy. No project in the country has ever done that. The hydro plant is a contentious issue in the community, and a democratic discussion is warranted, but whether you are a paid consultant, advocate working for those against the project or are a neighbor or a concerned resident, please check your facts so the dialogue we have as a community will have merit and is fact-based.

In another letter, Maurice Emmer complains that the City Council might give him what his petition asked for – the rescinding of the zoning decision for the Castle Creek Energy Center instead of an immediate election (“Give the people what they want in hydro,” March 6, The Aspen Times).

The petition he circulated does not mandate a vote. The petition requests that the land-use approval be rescinded. Aspen’s charter states that the council has the authority either to rescind the land-use approval or to place it on the ballot. As representatives of the owner of the property – the residents of Aspen – there is nothing inappropriate in council members expressing opinions that it might be in the city’s best interest to simply rescind the ordinance.

Emmer has claimed previously that the low turnout in the original election was not a mandate for going forward. Yet he now demands an offseason election in which a small, well-funded group could succeed in what they would argue is an up-or-down vote on the hydro plant, although the turnout could be even smaller than the original election. It is suspected that the opponents of the project are not so sure they will succeed if the election is part of a November general election in which the most voices in the community could weigh in on this community decision.

If you are interested in the discussion, the City Council has an action item on its agenda on the referendum petition at its meeting tonight. The meeting begins at 5 p.m., although the Castle Creek Energy Center petition item is at the end of their agenda.

Mitzi Rapkin

Community relations director, city of Aspen


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