Pitkin County going hydroelectric | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County going hydroelectric

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado

PITKIN COUNTY ” Pitkin County commissioners could make it easier to build small-scale hydroelectric plants on local rivers and streams.

Woody Creek resident Bruce Fabrizio hopes to put a small hydroelectric plant along Brush Creek near his home at the intersection of Highway 82 and Smith Way, county officials said.

But the current land-use code forbids any construction in delicate riverside riparian areas, so Fabrizio proposed a land-use code amendment that would allow for micro-hydroplants.

The amendment will come before the Pitkin County commissioners in coming weeks and calls for design specifications ” intake pipes no larger than 12 inches, for example ” as well as a “site-specific analysis” for any proposed plant.

Pitkin County commissioners will make a site visit and will vote for the code amendment in coming weeks, Commissioner Michael Owsley said.

The amendment would open the door to other projects in the county, and could breathe life into the historic hydroelectric plant in Redstone, which provided electricity as early as 1901.

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The historic hydroelectric plant in Redstone has been quiet for decades, but Redstone Historical Society members hope to restore it in stages to its former function.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails officials plan to close the $250,000 deal to buy the Redstone plant with landowner Bob McCormick.

“We’re getting ready to close on that purchase in coming days,” said open space director Dale Will.

Officials from the Redstone Historical Society hope to first restore the Victorian structure housing the 1901 plant, and hope to build a micro-hydroplant in the future.

Redstone Historical Society president Ron Sorter was involved in the preservation of the historic coke ovens in Redstone and said the hydroelectric plant renovation will follow a similarly slow process.

“Our idea is to take it in steps,” Sorter said. “We’ve got an idea ” that’s what we’ve got.”

The group have hired an architect to assess the building, Sorter said.

If the existing building is not a “ruin” and can be saved, they’ll find grant money to shore it up and improve it, Sorter said.

“Once it’s public property, grants become easier to obtain,” Sorter added.

And once the building is saved, the group will look into getting the historic plant back online.

“Right now, it’s pretty much in shambles,” said historical society board member Darrell Munsell, adding that the renovation is a “top priority.”

“That’s what Redstone really is about: A historic experience,” Munsell said. And any renovation to the plant would turn the historic site into a visitors center and a “teaching laboratory” for tourists and visiting school children, he added.

“It’s going to be a while off, but at least we’re moving on it,” Munsell said.

“We certainly support any effort that will produce electricity outside the grid,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield. But he wondered where the funds will come from.

Power from Redstone or any hydroelectric plant site can be sold at retail price to Holy Cross Electric, Owsley said. But he stressed that not every location is suitable for a hydroelectric plant.

The issue comes before county commissioners in coming weeks.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.