Responsible choice for the environment is hydro | AspenTimes.com

Responsible choice for the environment is hydro

Dear Editor:

Another day, another deceptive postcard from unknown sources, full of half-truths and exaggerations designed to scare city residents into voting against their own best interest on the hydropower question. It leads me to ask: Why are they selling so hard, and what are they trying to obscure?

I’m voting “yes” on the city hydro question because:

If Aspen discontinues pursuit of the hydropower facility and loses its senior water rights for power generation, city residents will have lost an asset worth millions of dollars. Castle and Maroon creeks will not be protected, and abandoning the city’s water rights will only make that water available for other diverters to claim and take both streams down to minimum streamflow. The Colorado Constitution guarantees that “the right to divert un-appropriated water to beneficial use shall not be denied.” Voting “no” would not ensure that the water would stay in the stream; it would become available to other users who have no obligation to Aspen residents to maximize environmental protection. Aspen residents will have far greater ability to protect the stream by

voting yes and maintaining our water rights.

Millions of dollars have already been spent to implement the voter-approved hydropower facility; if we kill the project city taxpayers will have to repay that debt without any revenue from generating and selling the hydro power. City taxpayers will be repaying the debt through their electric bills, while still having to purchase power from coal fire plants.

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If the same math that opponents apply to the Aspen project was applied to the Ruedi hydro power facility years ago, Ruedi would never have happened. The cost of Ruedi electrical power was the most expensive power in the city’s portfolio while the construction was being paid off – now it is the least expensive. Killing the city hydro project means buying power at market prices, whatever they may be in the future. It is the difference between buying a home or renting: After 30 years tenting you will have nothing to show for it, versus paying a little more to secure an asset forever.

Aspen residents vote for a majority of their City Council every two years. If the council runs the power facility in a way that hurts stream health, we can vote them out and still control the water right. Aspen has an extremely strong record of environmental protections, especially river water quality and riparian health. Aspen has spent millions to remove “non-point source” pollutants and thousands of tons of sedimentation from street runoff before it gets in the river, without being under any sort of EPA mandate, simply because it was the right thing to do. Aspen has diligently reduced its consumption of water, using less now than in 1991! I trust the folks we elect to do the right thing far more than unidentified special interest.

The city has done more to promote efficiency and renewable energy than any other community I know, including the Resource Efficiency Management Program, the Canary Initiative, and the Energy Smart program to make low-rate loans available to home owners for efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. But none of those measures will be enough to address the climate crisis confronting our society. It is time to take responsibility for our role in greenhouse gas emissions and to create local renewable clean energy. And I really like the idea of local power generation and self-sufficiency instead of dependence on an increasingly fragile national energy grid.

I strongly urge our citizens to vote “yes” for Aspen hydro!

Rachel E. Richards

Aspen