We’re listening | AspenTimes.com

We’re listening

Dear Editor:

As you may have read, the Castle Creek Energy Center is being discussed “off line” as part of a citizen-led mediation initiative. A formal vote on the project by City Council has been postponed to allow time for this process to move forward; however, all comments to the city of Aspen on the project are still being accepted, just as the city has been gathering and listening to public feedback on the project for years.

The city of Aspen has held a variety of public meetings and feedback mechanisms to date, most noticeably holding a city-wide election in 2007 with more than 70 percent of voters saying yes to the project. As a result of these feedback loops and public direction, we’ve been working forward with the hopes that this project will reduce Aspen’s dependence on coal for environmental as well as long-term financial reasons. We firmly believe that Aspen’s stream health can be maintained while producing clean, renewable energy with hydropower.

Public input is vital to the city of Aspen as an open organization, and we are happy to incorporate changes based on public recommendations. Here are a few of the changes made directly in response to public input on the Castle Creek Hydro Plant so far:

• We heard there was a concern from the public that we didn’t have enough data on fish and stream health. So, we hired biologist Dr. Bill Miller to perform a study that looked directly at fish and stream health.

• We heard from the Colorado Division of Wildlife that they wanted more information on the minimum stream flows in areas where the project would operate since the most recent state stream-flow requirements are from the 1970s. So, we asked Dr. Miller to come up with suggested minimum stream flows based on the current methodology agreed upon and used by the state.

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• We heard from neighbors that they were concerned about noise from the proposed hydro plant. So, we enlisted the help of a noise expert to help design the building so it would meet strict noise standards. We also wrote into the project plan for approval by council that we would have monitoring after construction and gave our commitment that we will meet noise standards if for any reason the noise expert was wrong (hey, no one is infallible).

• We heard that there should be stream monitoring after the project was installed … again no one is infallible, what if Dr. Miller was wrong … So, we collaborated with the Division of Wildlife to create a robust 10-year monitoring program for stream health that would analyze any stream health impacts as a result of the hydro project. We would then react accordingly.

We continue to hold field trips, talk with interested individuals and provide information on the project for anyone who desires to know more. Visit http://www.aspenpitkin.com and click on “Castle Creek Hydro” to get started.

David Hornbacher

deputy utilities director, city of Aspen