The city will file a six-month status update with the federal government that keeps alive the potential for a hydroelectric plant using the waters of Castle and Maroon creeks.
The decision came after residents on both sides of the controversial project — which has been in the works since voters approved bonds to build it in 2007, but was on the losing end of a 2012 advisory ballot question — had their say at a council meeting.
All council members but Adam Frisch were in favor on Monday of filing the paperwork, which city staff cast as keeping a place holder with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should the council decide at some future date to go forward with the project.
“I don’t see this as nefarious or sinister or horrifying or otherwise,” Councilman Dwayne Romero said, adding that he has confidence in a process that is currently underway to examine other renewable energy options.
Much of the discussion on Monday centered on what would happen if the city didn’t file the report. City utilities director Dave Hornbacher and utilities project manager Will Dolan said not filing the report could make it more difficult to take the project forward in the future, if that’s what the council decides.
Filing the report, which is due March 1, would maintain the city’s current preliminary permit application with the FERC. That preliminary permit is good through March 2015, after which point the city would either have to seek an extension, apply to build the project or let the permit process lapse.
Connie Harvey, a longtime environmental activist, pointed out that the six-month filing is an update to the feds on what steps are being taken to complete the project. She pointed to language in city filings that says the government is studying the feasibility of the hydro project with an eye toward submitting for a final permit.
“That’s a rather clear statement that the intention is to build this thing, not just keep your options open,” Harvey said.
But council members insisted that keeping their options open was all they were interested in doing. In April, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will get back to the city with a menu of green power options that might supplant a hydro facility.
“Not filing this report would be an attempt to foreclose that discussion,” Mayor Steve Skadron said. “Tonight should not be the decision point.”