Since voters struck down the city’s proposed hydro project on Castle Creek last week, Aspen City Council will look at alternative ways to reach its ultimate goal of the municipal government operating off of 100 percent renewable energy by 2015.
The city asked voters in an advisory question whether it should continue pursuing the controversial project, which would take water from Castle and Maroon creeks using the city’s existing water diversion infrastructure, run it to a holding pond near the water treatment plant and then feed it through a 4,000-foot-long pipeline to a turbine that would be located under the Castle Creek Bridge. The water would then return to Castle Creek.
The city had originally projected that the plant would supply up to 8 percent of the municipal utility’s electricity needs. City Manager Steve Barwick has said in the past that with the hydro plant, the city could get very close to its 2015 goal, if not reach it.
Voters struck the project down by a narrow margin of 51.38 percent, but because the ballot question was advisory, it is not legally binding and the city could still proceed with the hydro project.
Still, Barwick advised City Council in a meeting on Monday that it should begin looking at other renewable-energy options and their costs to fulfill its goal. Barwick suggested that those discussions take place in January. Council can then get a final update on stream studies that were done in conjunction with the project, he said.
Council agreed to Barwick’s suggestion.
“In the meantime we are not spending any more money on the hydro project,” Barwick said. “And we haven’t for a few weeks now.”
In November 2007, Aspen voters approved taking out $5.5 million in bonds to fund the project, but very little was known about the details of it at the time.
The project’s budget has since increased about 60 percent to $10.5 million, roughly $6.9 million of which has been spent.