Why can’t the city of Aspen be more honest about its plans to dewater Castle and Maroon creeks? There are other options, both for renewable energy and for telling the whole story.
While there’s been no public discussion linking the possible reservoirs on Castle and Maroon creeks with the hydropower project, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a connection.
But the city still insists on deception about stream protection. Anyone who has lived here longer than one year knows that streamflow varies during the year. Using an annual average of the streamflow diversion is utterly meaningless. The city’s own reporting and calculations show clearly that diversions for hydropower and other needs will take more than 40-60 percent of the stream’s water much of the year. That is serious dewatering. Isolating diversions just for hydro and then averaging that out over the year is deliberately deceptive.
Then there is the illusion of minimum streamflow “protection.” First, the state does not require minimum flows. Aspen has an agreement guaranteeing the minimum, but that’s the exception, not the rule. A minimum instream flow right can be acquired by the state, if they want, but its still part of the prior appropriation system. The minimum flow right on the lower Crystal River is 100 cubic feet per second (cfs), but since early July the flow has been half the minimum or less because of senior diversion rights upstream.
Second, the science of stream ecology has conclusively shown that maintaining a minimum flow, or even just a little more, will not keep a stream ecosystem healthy. Stream ecosystems like Castle and Maroon creeks are complex and it takes a more than just a baseline minimum to keep them functioning.
While the reservoirs have “never been a secret,” they certainly haven’t been publicized. These reservoirs could provide additional water for municipal needs, and for hydropower. Reservoirs are usually built exactly for those two purposes. It’s only natural to link the reservoirs with the Castle Creek hydro project.
All we really want from the city is an open, honest discussion, not continued deceptive manipulation of the facts.
Director, The Western Rivers Institute