New group hopes to spark discussion of streams
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Amid the heightened interest in man’s use of local creek and river systems, sparked by the city of Aspen’s proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric plant, a new group has been formed with the goal of promoting civil discussions on the issue.
The organization, Friends of Rivers and Renewables, is an offshoot of Old Snowmass resident Tim McFlynn’s nonprofit Public Counsel of the Rockies. McFlynn served as a mediator last year in negotiations between city officials and Castle Creek project critics, a process that led to the city’s “slow start” concept for the plant and other compromises.
Old Snowmass resident Chelsea Congdon Brundige, a documentary filmmaker and conservationist, will serve as director of the new organization. The group is seeking to provide a “grassroots educational effort to engender a more collaborative, less confrontational discussion of the important issues raised by the city’s proposed hydropower project,” according to a statement.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Brundige said she understands that city officials and other project supporters likely will look upon her group as another gadfly organization that hopes to cast the Castle Creek Energy Center in a negative light and eventually stop the project. But that’s far from the case, she said.
“This is a project that we would like to pursue for at least the next 10 years,” Brundige said. “The nexus between what we do in western Colorado about energy and what we do about water are going to be the two most important subjects for the next 50 years. All you have to do is look at the drought that we’re going to have this summer and realize how important it is for us to dig really deep and develop a good understanding and community dialogue about what our clean energy choices are and what we should be doing to protect our rivers and streams.”
She said that rather than take a side on the city’s hydroelectric project or any other project, “We would like to be organizing and facilitating that kind of education and public dialogue in this valley,” Brundige said.
She acknowledged that there is a lot of energy and vitriol surrounding Aspen’s hydroelectric project.
“It’s sort of like being in a swimming pool – we’d rather push off the wall and get headed in a positive direction where we think we can do something helpful rather than participate in that debate because we’re not needed in that debate. That project will be as good as it can be, and if it gets permitted by (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), Aspen is going to be recognized as a city that did more than it had to do and went above and beyond to get it right,” Brundige said.
The organization plans to hold some informational programs in the near future, probably every other month, she said. The first, co-hosted by the Roaring Fork Conservancy, is scheduled for April 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
The event is billed as a community conversation with Canadian environmentalist Harvey Locke and Montana hydrologist Ric Hauer. The statement from Friends of Rivers and Renewables says the discussion will revolve around how a mountain community like Aspen “can harmonize its responsibility to address the climate crisis through leadership on local clean energy while securing and maintaining healthy streamflows for regional biodiversity.”
Healthy streamflows provide the capacity for species to remain resilient rather than collapse in the face of climate change, Friends of Rivers and Renewables said.
Subsequent dialogues are being planned, including “How Will Climate Change Affect the Roaring Fork Watershed?” Brad Udall, director of Western Water Assessment at the NOAA-CIRES Climate Diagnostics Center in Boulder, will lead the discussion.
The group is planning two initial projects. The first involves coordinating efforts to establish a better system of creek and river gauges to monitor streamflows and other aspects of stream health in the Roaring Fork watershed.
The second will start a community collaborative process with stakeholders on hydroelectric opportunities within the watershed. That effort will be facilitated by Michael Kinsley, a senior consultant at the Rocky Mountain Institute.
McFlynn said in a prepared statement that the overall goal is to change the culture of the community’s relationship with water in the region.
“We have a well-developed land ethic in the West and need a parallel water ethic,” he said.
For more information, visit http://www.forraspen.com.
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