Support hydro project
November 1, 2012
Rachel Richards’ letter Tuesday (“Responsible choice for the environment is hydro,” The Aspen Times) clearly explains her reasons to support the Castle Creek hydro project as well as the realities of Colorado water law as it relates to protection of these streams.
While opponents urge rejection of the project to “save the stream,” Rachel is spot on when she states that “voting ‘no’ for the project would not ensure that the water would stay in the stream; it would be available to other diverters who have no obligation to maximize environmental protection.” She goes on to explain that if the city abandons its right, it will lose an asset worth millions of dollars.
My two cents to add to this logic (as a personal opinion and not as a city employee) is that Rachel’s look into the future without the protection offered by maintaining Aspen’s existing rights fits directly with my own experience. This experience was as utility director for the city of Aspen over an 18-year period, during which time I reviewed every application for new diversions from Castle or Maroon creeks. I requested that each application for new diversions be conditioned to ensure that the diversion could only be exercised if the new right respected the flow level established by the state and asked for their participation in programs to protect streamflows.
In every instance that such a request was made, the answer of the new diverter was “no” because it wasn’t legally required, but Aspen is free to go it alone in the pursuit of stream health. Now these same right-holders have sued the city of Aspen over the use of water rights held for more than 100 years, asking for abandonment of the city’s rights while they attempt to hold the right to dewater without any requirement that would be effective in protection of stream health.
Rachel’s logic is not new thinking, and in fact the policy of previous city councils for the past four decades has been to utilize the city’s water rights for hydroelectric production while protecting the environment through maintenance of healthy streamflows while joining in voluntary cooperative efforts with Colorado agencies responsible for administration of measures to protect streams. This is the second letter that Rachel, as a former mayor, has sent on the subject. In the first she was joined by three other mayors (Stacy Standley, Bill Stirling and Mick Ireland) who urged voters to stay with the long-standing existing policy that produced successful projects such as the Ruedi and Maroon Creek hydroelectric plants by voting “yes” on Issue 2C.
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I thoroughly endorse this position held by those of a wide variety of political viewpoints who have taken the time to look into this question thoroughly, both in the past and in the present.