There are better alternatives
November 4, 2012
In these days of legitimate concern over global warming, the city of Aspen’s program to become carbon-neutral by 2020 in its governmental energy use is generally laudable. However, the city should not allow this excellent goal to be tarnished by a questionable micro-hydro project that would move Aspen only about 6 percent of the way to its carbon neutral goal.
Castle and Maroon creeks, small streams by most standards, already suffer from a number of withdrawals including snowmaking. For a few months of the year, the hydroelectricity project would withdraw about 50 percent of the remaining flow but none during the critical winter months when the city’s power use peaks and Castle Creek’s flow would naturally be very low. Coal power from the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska then will be needed to take up the slack.
Some people might think that a 50 percent seasonal flow withdrawal is not a big deal, but those who study stream health know that the naturally wide swings in Colorado’s streams’ flows help maintain the physical health and natural configuration of the stream channel and nearby riparian areas. High flows in spring scour out fish habitat-smothering sediment and allow native aquatic species to flourish. A 50 percent reduction when flows are high will greatly diminish these essential ecosystem functions. Minimum flow is not enough!
Surely the city of Aspen can come up with other ways of meeting 6 percent of its carbon-neutral goal without damaging Castle and Maroon creeks!
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