Lee Cassin’s letter (“We owe it to our kids to vote ‘yes’ on hydro,” Aspen Daily News, Sept. 27) shows that some people in Aspen are still working under serious misconceptions about hydropower, water rights and the people opposed to the project.
First, most of the opposition is from Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley locals, not a few well-heeled outsiders. As for NIMBY’s, anyone whose home and the things they cherish are threatened will be concerned. The people who started the campaign against Love Canal’s toxic pollution in New York were the people whose homes and lives were threatened, the people who lived there. Their action resulted in the nations first Superfund cleanup.
Any significant environmental actions have come from people who live there. They are people who care deeply about their home, their community, their kid’s future and the natural environment they inhabit. If that’s what it is to be a NIMBY, we are all NIMBY’s.
The second point is the reference to outsiders “who want these water rights.” No one, and I repeat, no one can steal or otherwise take the city’s hydroelectric water rights for their own use. If the court deems the water right abandoned, that water simply returns to the stream, period.
I agree with Lee Cassin about coal. There is no such thing as “clean coal.” Coal-fired power plants are a major source of greenhouse gases. Aspen’s efforts to wean itself from coal are commendable, but can the hydro plant really do that? Aspen uses the most coal-fired electricity in the winter. Winter is when Aspen’s demands for both electricity and water are high. Water from Castle and Maroon creeks is needed for the thousands of visiting skiers that are the fountain of the local economy. Water is needed, along with lots of electricity, for snowmaking.
Winter is when the streams are running the lowest and are most vulnerable. Winter is also when the hydro plant will be shut down. It won’t be a reliable source of electricity when Aspen needs it the most. The city hasn’t said what other renewable energy will replace either hydro or coal in the winter.
Climate change, severe droughts and heat waves will also impact the streams by reducing their native flow even more. Taking water for hydro on top of that and all the other needs could be the straw that breaks the streams back. Neither we nor the streams can afford that.