The city of Aspen’s request to the feds to use an expedited review process for its Castle Creek hydroelectric project has run into stiff opposition
In the mix of property owners are two billionaires and two Aspen locals with a history of successfully taking on local governments.
Six different parties have filed statements of opposition in state water court against the Colorado River District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District, which are seeking to solidify their rights to someday build a dam on the upper Crystal River.
The proposed Placita dam would back up 4,000 acre-feet of water. The prior Placita dam would have held back 62,000 acre-feet.
About 47,000 acre-feet of water has been diverted each year of the last decade off the top of the Roaring Fork River drainage and sent through Tunnel No. 1 under Independence Mountain.
The tunnel is a good indicator of the runoff levels in the upper Roaring Fork River drainage, and a true indicator of how much water is being sent to Twin Lakes Reservoir, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Pueblo, Pueblo West and fields north of the Arkansas River in Crowley and Antero counties.
A group of citizens opposing the city of Aspen’s proposed hydro power plant has threatened to file a lawsuit, claiming the city effectively abandoned its water rights for power generation when it closed the original Castle Creek hydro plant in 1958.
The decision takes away the long-simmering prospect, however thin, that two Ruedi-sized dams would be built on the Crystal River, including the 129,00-acre-feet Osgood Reservoir, which would have put Redstone underwater.
If the Colorado River District dammed the Crystal River, would anyone want to buy the water stored behind the dams? Probably so, according to Kerry Sundeen of Grand River Consulting, with large landowners along the Crystal River seeking irrigation water perhaps the strongest potential market.
An updated look at the conditional water rights associated with the West Divide Project was provided at a meeting on Wednesday, March 16, 2011.