Storm-water project cost doesn’t faze City Council |

Storm-water project cost doesn’t faze City Council

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Despite an estimated $3.5 million price tag, the design of a storm-water treatment system at Rio Grande Park and Jenny Adair Pond won endorsement Monday from the Aspen City Council.

The unanimous go-ahead only means staffers will continue the design work; it’s not a commitment to build anything.

The city may have a better shot at grant money to help fund the improvements, though, by getting the jump on the storm-water cleanup project. Staffers anticipate Aspen will be under Environmental Protection Agency orders to address the storm-water problem in a few years.

The council was presented with photographs of soap suds, antifreeze and garbage that flows into the Roaring Fork River along with the storm water that washes through town. Council members needed little convincing that the city could do a better job of filtering the contaminants out of its runoff.

Members unanimously endorsed the approach taken by the Parks Department – clean up the storm water in a way that also enhances Rio Grande Park and Jenny Adair Pond to the north.

Storm water is already channeled through both locales. The mandates of the Clean Water Act represent an opportunity to improve the park and the pond, as well as clean up the runoff, according to Jeff Woods, parks director.

He showed the council sketches of what could be done at both locations with constructed wetlands and a series of ponds, as well as photos of similar projects already constructed by his department.

“I think this is a fabulous project,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.

“I want to do this as quickly as possible because of what’s happening to the river and the water, not when the EPA is going to come down,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards.

In both locales, storm water would channel through a “pretreatment” filter to remove garbage and heavy sediments, like oil and greases. That step would occur out of view – probably underground. Then the runoff would run through ponds, waterfalls and wetlands, where other materials filter out before it flows into the Roaring Fork.

At Jenny Adair Pond, it may be possible to use adjacent land owned by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies to create a more expansive wetlands, Woods said.

At the park, the playing field would be lowered several feet to detain runoff during a major storm. The banks would create spectator seating, and the field could be enlarged to a regulation size for soccer and rugby, he said.

The park can retain all of its current uses, including future Jazz Aspen Snowmass festivals, added Woods, in response to a question from Klanderud.

The city’s Parks and Engineering departments hope to have final designs for the improvements done by Nov. 1. In the meantime, the projects will be considered as the city prepares its 2004 budget, which will be reviewed by the council throughout the fall.

The work at Jenny Adair Pond is estimated at $1.5 million, but a U.S. Corps of Army Engineers grant could fund much of it, Woods said.

Other potential players are developers of Obermeyer Place near the park, the Aspen Skiing Co. (much of the runoff comes off Aspen Mountain) and developers of the Top of Mill project at the base of the mountain.

The city could also look at borrowing money or forming a special assessment district to help fund the improvements, said Paul Menter, finance director.

“If we were to form a district, I don’t see how you could not, at least, include the entire city of Aspen,” Klanderud said. “It’s a community issue. Who isn’t affected by it?”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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