Aspen proposal would end chances of damming Castle, Maroon creeks
January 22, 2018
Are the staff and consultants to the City Council stark-raving mad, or am I missing something?
In the 1970s we spent considerable funds to prove, ensure and enhance the city's water rights and environment, which were under threat. Those efforts have been fully supported by the voters and every City Council through the 1980s.
Now the City Council seems bent on backtracking on the groundwork laid nearly 50 years ago, under the guidance of the City Council, utility staff, engineers, financial advisors, environmentalists and lawyers — and voters — and, I might also add, the courts.
Yes, the city can transfer the conditional water rights downstream to the potential groundwater storage facilities. And yes, the city can engineer a successful groundwater storage basin and install pipelines and pumping plants and electrical generating facilities to deliver the water to treatment facilities and customers.
But at what capital and environmental cost? Do the math.
They are projecting the capital-expenditure cost to engineer and build the groundwater storage facilities at $49,000 to $77,000 per acre foot, and that apparently does not include the capital-expenditure cost of the pipelines and pumping plants and electrical generating facilities, land acquisition and environmental mitigation … or financing costs or annual operational-expenditure costs. The all-in cost could well exceed $100,000 per acre foot or more. The total bill starts at $147.7 million and grows to many times that amount, and the city only maybe gets 2,800 acre feet of water, which is far less than the actual decrees for the Castle Creek and Maroon Creek reservoirs at 13,629 acre feet.
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That all-in cost is 100 times the customary cost of water supply and appears to be 50 times to 75 times the cost of the Castle Creek and Maroon Creek dam alternatives.
Think of it this way: Under the most ambitious conservation program, an average home in the city uses one half of an acre-foot a year. So each home will have to assume in the home water supply rate base of at least $50,000, plus the cost of financing the capital expenditure, plus the new operating expenditure, which could result in treated water rates equal to $5,000 per home per year, plus the existing rate base.
Facetiously, it would be cheaper to actually shut down all homes and businesses in the city and move all of the homes and businesses downstream to the location of the groundwater storage basins.
Not so facetiously, I ran and was reelected on the "stop the growth gorilla" platform. We stopped the "growth gorilla" and prospered with a safer environment, fiscal accountability and secure water supply. But has the reemerged "growth gorilla" on an "industrialized tourism" scale beyond the "carrying capacity" of the "earth resource support square" per capita of the valley caused the city to make bad decisions?
The City Council has backed themselves into a corner by following the crew of new "water experts." They are bent on destroying the long and successful history of the water policy of the city, and for what?
In closing, as a fiscal accountability advocate for all of my career, I certainly hope that the Aspen City Council (and all other area governments) have aligned their representations in their bond documents to match their representations in water court and other official documents on the issue of climate change, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions and etc. If there is a disconnect between the representations on the left hand in water court with the representations on the right hand in bond documents, serious adverse consequences from bond holders can follow.
Aspen mayor (1973-79)
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