The environmental thing to do | AspenTimes.com

The environmental thing to do

Dear Editor:

This is my first editorial after living here quite a long time (30 years next year). I have always avoided writing (or reading) letters to the editor, but the present initiative to authorize the conversion of open space to a hydroelectric plant and to authorize bonds to fund $5,100,000 toward a new hydroplant deserves comment. This sounds like a very “green” project. However, it is wasteful and irresponsible. The claim is that it will produce renewable electricity and utilize excess water rights of the city. Those goals sound good, but they will not be achieved. Voters should be aware:

1) The city’s water rights have not been used for this purpose in generations; in all likelihood under Colorado law they have been substantially abandoned. The facility will likely sit unused, a waste of tax dollars. To authorize expenditures before the feasibility of a project is resolved is irresponsible.

2) Diversion of water under a new water right would adversely impact the minimum instream flow on Castle Creek, contrary to the other goal of the city of maintaining instream flows.

3) Use of open space for an industrial use is a bad precedent.

4) The city’s “Canary Initiative” (a laudable goal, if implemented responsibly) is not met here. Climate change and carbon emissions are not just local issues, they are global issues. Therefore, the city’s approach of merely considering relative impacts of producing energy from a hydroplant against those of a fossil fuel plant reveal a lack of understanding of these legitimate issues. In assessing carbon loading issues, responsible programs review: a) emissions from the mining of raw materials; b) emissions from transporting the raw materials to manufacturing; c) emissions from manufacturing the raw materials; d) emissions from transporting the finished materials to the site; e) emissions from construction impacts, as well as traffic and housing impacts for labor in construction; and f) emissions from long term operations. It is only this last component that the city looks at.

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The city’s golf course “reuse” irrigation project is an example of how poorly the Canary Initiative goals are applied. There, rather than use gravity to provide irrigation water to the golf course, as was historically done, the city plans to pump water more than two miles uphill to irrigate the same land. The city merely funded and constructed, without regard to the long term costs of the project (energy or environmental) or the fact that it did not have the water rights to accomplish the stated goals. The Castle Creek Hydroplant Project appears to be a project in the same vein. People familiar with the water industry avoid lifting water uphill significant distances; it is a costly perpetual waste of energy. If private enterprise sought to spend your money without undertaking the requisite due diligence, you would never give them your money … so why would you give them your vote?

Kevin Patrick

Aspen