Voters deserve more credit for hydro rejection

Dear Editor:

I was disappointed to read Roger Adams’ utterly misleading leading question on hydro at the candidates forum Wednesday night – “Big-money interests and NIMBYs shot it down.” As an impartial moderator and journalist, Roger should know better.

Blaming the loss on “big money” is a cop-out and an insult to the intelligence of Aspen voters.

And NIMBYs? Nearly all significant environmental and conservation achievements are from the actions of people concerned about a place they love and call home. Call people who treasure the “backyard” of Aspen NIMBYs if you want; I call them heroes.

Aspen voters shot down the hydro plant because they listened to the facts, not the hype. Minimum streamflows over extended periods subject any stream to a permanent drought condition, which is not good. The project was way over budget, with the promise of spending millions more and still nothing to show for it. Amory Lovins wrote a detailed letter to the City Council explaining the fiscal foolishness of this project. He also offered real alternatives that would work to achieve Aspen’s goals faster.

Then there is the argument that hydropower is “reliable.” If the Castle Creek plant had been running last year, it would have provided very little or no electricity since September. Why? Drought, low flows and ice. This during fall and winter, when Aspen uses more energy than any other time of year.

Hydropower is only “reliable” when it is attached to a reservoir. The old Shoshone plant in Glenwood Canyon is down more often than not. Even with a reservoir, there is still a chance of not having enough water. Lake Powell and Lake Meade both have come very close to not having enough water to keep the turbines running in recent years.

And the city won’t lose all its “water rights” if it loses the court case. It might lose the ability to generate hydro with the oldest rights but not any real water. The home taps and snowmaking hydrants aren’t in any danger of running dry.

Hydro can still be an option for Aspen’s clean-energy goals, but not like it was done in 1892. Climate change is real and needs immediate action. But not like this. And when it comes to the planet, aren’t we all NIMBYs?

It wasn’t “big money” and “NIMBYs” that shot down the hydro plant. It was the intelligence of the Aspen voter. I trust that the new mayor and council will continue to respect that and act intelligently themselves.

Ken Neubecker



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