Castle Creek

The city of Aspen finalized settlement agreements this week that mean no dams will ever be built on Castle Creek, shown here, and Maroon Creek.

The city of Aspen has reached settlement agreements with all opposers to Aspen’s two pending water court cases regarding its conditional storage rights on Castle and Maroon creeks, officials announced on Tuesday.

The next steps will be obtaining water court approval of the stipulations and entry of decrees continuing the conditional water rights for another six-year period.

The city since 1965 has held conditional water rights to build dams and reservoirs on the upper reaches of Castle and Maroon creeks. When the city applied for its every-six-years diligence filing in 2016 in water court, 10 parties, including environmental organizations, the Forest Service and Pitkin County and private landowners, challenged the extension of the water rights.

The city has been negotiating with the opposers ever since. The breakthrough came when the city agreed to transfer the storage rights — which may come in handy in a warmer, drier future — to alternate locations.

Throughout this process, the city’s primary concern, in concert with its commitment to environmental values, has been to safeguard its water storage rights to meet the needs of its water customers with a sufficient, legal, and reliable water supply, now and into the future, despite future risks and uncertainty, most notably from climate change, the city release says.

Over the last few months the city of Aspen reached agreements with opposers including Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, Pitkin County, the U.S. Forest Service and private landowners. Last week, the city reached an agreement with the final opposing party.

In accordance with the stipulations, Aspen will file a water court application to transfer both of its water storage rights to one or more locations that are not in wilderness areas.  The new storage locations include city-owned land in the Woody Creek area, the Aspen Golf Course, Cozy Point Ranch, Zoline Open Space, Vagneur Gravel Quarry and/or any other location agreed to in writing by the City and the parties opposing the current cases. In addition, Aspen has agreed to limit the total amount diverted annually to storage to a total of 8,500 acre-feet.

After the stipulations have been approved and the decrees entered in the current cases, Aspen can begin planning and engineering work and developing a water court application to change the location of the storage rights to one or more of the new sites outside of the wilderness area.

The city, along with American Rivers, Western Resource Advocates, Wilderness Workshop and Trout Unlimited will co-host a happy hour to celebrate the settlement on Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Limelight Hotel. The public is invited to join staff from the four conservation organizations and the city to toast the agreement, discuss the importance of balancing municipal water needs with conservation values, and delve into the details of the agreement.