The following timeline has links to many source documents obtained from the archives of the City of Aspen, the Colorado River District, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. We also cite a number of early articles from The Aspen Times (AT), which covered water issues closely, especially in the 1950s and 1960s as Aspen struggled with finding a clean supply of drinking water.

Before the timeline begins, we’ve provided some maps and list the specs on the proposed dams and reservoirs.


A map produced by Pitkin County from a map on file with the state of the city of Aspen’s proposed Maroon Creek Reservoir, located just below Maroon Creek Lake, shown to the left as the smaller of the two bodies of water. The map was commissioned by Aspen Journalism and confirmed in 2012 as accurate by city officials. Credit: Source: Pitkin County for Aspen Journalism

1. 1965 maps, as filed by the city of Aspen for Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir.

2. 2012 maps, from Aspen Journalism for Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir reservoirs.

3. 2016 illustrative maps from Wilderness Workshop for Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir.

4. 2016 topo maps from city of Aspen for Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir.

A topographic map showing the location of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir. The map was filed by the city of Aspen in Division 5 Water Court on Oct. 31, 2016, as part of a diligence application. Credit: City of Aspen
A map showing the potential Castle Creek Reservoir. The City of Aspen has agreed not to flood property owned by Simon Pinniger and Mark and Karen Hedstrom, and so the reservoir may be smaller than shown. Credit: Source: Pitkin County GIS
A topographic map showing the location of the potential Castle Creek Reservoir, downstream of Ashcroft. The map was submitted by the city of Aspen as part of its Oct. 31, 2016, diligence filing. Credit: City of Aspen/Div. 5 Water Court
A detail of the 1965 map signed by Aspen Mayor Harald Pabst used to file for the water right for the Maroon Creek Reservoir. Credit: Source: state of Colorado

Reservoir specifications, as currently decreed:

Maroon Creek Reservoir

Location: 4 miles upstream of Aspen’s diversion dam on Maroon Creek
Dam height: 155 feet
Dam width (across river): 1,280 feet
Coverage area: 85 acres
Max depth: 150 feet
Water stored: 4,567 acre feet
Dry year evaporation and seepage: 375 acre feet

Castle Creek Reservoir

Location: 6 miles upstream of Aspen’s diversion dam on Castle Creek
Dam height: 170 feet
Dam width (across river): 1,220 feet
Coverage area: 120 acres
Max depth: 165 feet
Water stored: 9,062 acre feet
Dry year evaporation and seepage: 425 acre feet

Other relevant reservoirs

Normal storage capacity, in acre feet, of various reservoirs in Colorado. Information from the Colorado Dam Safety Office.

Name/acre feet:
Leonard Thomas (City of Aspen treatment plant) – 10
Sheer Bliss – 11
Aspen Golf Course Pond #1 – 25.7
Lake Christine – 27
Chapman 100 –
Lost Man – 100
Woods Lake – 212
Lake Deborah (Ziegler) – 248
Lake Ann (Dinkle Lake) – 460
Grizzly – 590
Ivanhoe – 750
Wildcat – 1,100
Spring Park – 1,732
Clinton Gulch – 4,372
Maroon Creek* – 4,567
Grass Valley (Harvey Gap) – 5,060
Castle Creek* – 9,062
Yamcolo – 9,580
Rifle Gap – 13,602
Paonia – 20,950
Twin Lakes – 86,000
Ruedi – 102,369
Sugar Loaf (Turquoise) – 129,432
Dillon – 254,036

* not built


April 18, 1881, city of Aspen incorporated.

Nov. 16, 1885, appropriation date of the Castle Creek Flume, which was decreed for 60 cfs from Castle Creek. The original claimant was the Castle Creek Water Co.

Credit: Aspen Historical Society
A colorized lantern slide shows a panoramic view of Aspen from Red Mountain. An outline of the Silver Queen (or the Ute Chief) can be clearly seen in West Aspen Mountain, now known as Shadow Mountain. The picture was likely taken in late summer of 1887. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

May 11, 1889, Midland Flume Ditch appropriation date for 100 cfs from Castle Creek. Original claimant Midland Water and Power Co. Diversion on west bank of Castle Creek.

1890, Aspen population: 5,108

June 25, 1892, The rights of the Castle Creek Flume Ditch and the Midland Flume Ditch were combined and decreed for a total of 160 cfs.

Aug. 12, 1892, Maroon Ditch appropriation date for 65 cfs.

The Castle Creek hydroelectric power house under construction in 1892. The building, under the Castle Creek bridge, is still in use today as a city shop. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

1893, Midland Water and Power Co. builds power plant on Castle Creek. It uses water from both Castle and Maroon, with penstocks connected to two wooden tanks.

1900, Aspen population: 3,303

Nov. 28, 1906, map filed with state engineer for Aspen Reservoir (No. 1) by W. P. Clough for 60-foot-tall dam on Roaring Fork River at Stillwater, to hold 11, 349.8 AF at an undetermined cost.

Dec. 11, 1906, map filed with state engineer for Aspen Reservoir (No. 2) by M.C. Hinderlinder for 50-foot-dam, X, apparently near Difficult Creek, above Stillwater.

June 26, 1907, map filed with state engineer for a revised Aspen Reservoir (No. 1)  by Central Colorado Power Co. on the Roaring Fork River (Stillwater) for 70-foot-tall dam holding 68,807 AF, at a cost of $500,000.

1910, Aspen population: 1,834

Feb. 3, 1910, map filed with state engineer for Roaring Fork Reservoir by H.A. House on Roaring Fork River (Weller) for 110-foot dam holding 760 AF.

1913, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. organized and purchases the Colorado Canal on the lower Arkansas River and Twin Lakes.

Two travelers from Aspen on Independence Pass, in 1920, in what came to be known as The Quiet Years for Aspen. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

1920, Aspen population: 1,265

1930, Aspen population: 705

August 1930, Members of the board of directors of Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. set their sights on diverting water from the headwaters of Roaring Fork River.

From the article, “The Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion Project, A Story of How Vision, Faith and Work Performed a Miracle for Crowley County, Colorado,” by Frank N. Bancroft:

“ … looking back toward the east they decided that it was useless for them to continue their search for water on the eastern slope of the divide. They then turned their faces toward the West and looked down upon the valley of the Roaring Fork, 2,000 feet below them, with its unused waters rushing madly to join the unused waters of the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs, and then, still unused, passing out of the State of Colorado forever.

“As they raised their eyes from the valley to the encircling magnificent 14,000-foot peaks about them, a vision came to them, and they said to Mr. Smith (their engineer), pointing to the Roaring Fork valley: ‘You must go down there and find water for our needs and you must find a way to bring it over or through this Continental Divide to Twin Lakes and to the Arkansas River.

October 1932, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. files for a federal grant for the Independence Pass diversion project from the federal Reconstruction Finance Co.

From “Water Wranglers,” a history of the Colorado River Water Conservancy District: “Almost twice the size of the Grand Ditch diversion, the largest at the time, the Twin Lakes Project would move 20,000 acre-feet of flood water under the Divide during the runoff season, with expansion plans that could accommodate as much as 50,000 acre-feet.

“This private irrigation project by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company – primarily funded by the sugar-beet industry – had actually been advancing quietly since the mid-1920s in the little-settled upper reaches of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork valleys; it only moved into the public eye when the company applied for a loan form President Roosevelt’s brand-new Reconstruction Finance Corporation in spring 1933.”

November 1933, work begins on Tunnel 1 connecting Lincoln Creek to Lake Creek on the eastern slope.

Construction in 1934 on the Twin Lakes-Independence Pass water system. The project was one of the first large transmountain diversion projects in Colorado and today takes water from the Roaring Fork River and Lost Man, Lincoln, Grizzly, New York, Brooklyn, and Tabor creeks. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

February 1935, crews working on the tunnel under Independence Pass meet in the middle.

March 20, 1935, Pitkin County joins the Western Colorado Protective Association. Source: An in-depth report by Larry Brown for River District on the history of the Aspen Reservoir.

Irrigation season 1935, more than 20,000 acre-feet of water flows through the Independence Pass tunnel in the first year of diversions.

Irrigation season, 1936, more than 25,000 acre-feet is diverted through the tunnel to the eastern slope.

Oct. 12, 1936, Tunnel No. 2 from Lost Man Reservoir to Grizzly Reservoir “holed through,” allowing Lost Man Creek to be diverted to Grizzly Reservoir and then through the Independence Tunnel.

A 1930s view of Roch Run, the first ski trail on Aspen Mountain. A boat tow was in use to access the top of the run. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Jan. 20, 1938, BuRec kills pre-Fry-Ark Aspen Reservoir proposal, according to The Aspen Times:

“The United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, after exhaustively investigating the proposed irrigation reservoir on the Roaring Fork, above the city, has officially turned thumbs down on the project. The bureau stated there was no need of a reservoir to supplement the irrigation water supply in the Roaring Fork valley. The site was surveyed in 1905 by the Central Colorado Power Company, the survey indicating a capacity of 23,000 acre-feet, with a water depth of 60 feet and a length of dam of 2,300 feet. The report of the Reclamation Bureau comes as a great disappointment to Aspenites and those residing in the valley who have kept close contact with the negotiations in this matter.”

Jan. 24, 1938, River District Board minutes show discussion of the “Stillwater project,” meaning Aspen Reservior. Brown report quotes an official saying “nobody up there wants the water badly enough to pay for it.”

A photo, circa 1940, of the road up Independence Pass and the diversion ditch, running horizontally, that moves water from Lost Man Lake to a diversion under Green Mountain as part of the Twin Lakes-Independence Pass transmountain diversion system. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

1940, Aspen population: 777

A detail from a map dated September, 1947 from the Bureau of Reclmation, of the proposed Gunnison-Arkansas Project, which was pared down to become the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The map is published on p. 124 and 125 of ‘Water Wranglers,’ the history of the Colorado River District, by George Sibley. Credit: Colorado River District

September, 1947, map of the proposed Gunnison-Arkansas Project, a predecessor of the Fryingpan-Arkansas project, shows a “Maroon & Castle Creek diversion,” with infrastructure to divert water from the two creeks to the headwaters of the Taylor River and then to the Arkansas River basin.

June, 1948, A report on the Gunnison-Arkansas Project says “Water from Maroon, Castle and Difficult Creeks on the upper reaches of the Roaring Fork River would be diverted to the Taylor River where it would be regulated in the potentially enlarged Taylor Park Reservoir for transmountain diversion. Power would be developed from water released into a vertical shaft leading to the transmountain Gunnison-Arkansas Tunnel and through a hydroelectric plant located underground below the Taylor Park Reservoir.”

July 28, 1949, Aspen Reservoir discussed anew at River District meeting. Reservoir now proposed at 28,000 acre feet as part of Gunnison-Arkansas project, an early version of the Fry-Ark project. Source: Brown report

Aug. 25, 1949, Mountain Utilities gets Maroon/Castle rights confirmed in court.

Mountain Utilities confirms Castle and Maroon Creek water rights. It gives the Maroon Ditch a 1949 decree with an appropriation date of Aug. 12, 1892.

The interior of the Castle Creek hydroelectric power plant, about 1950. The water from Castle Creek used to make power would form the core of the city of Aspen’s portfolio of senior water rights. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

1950, Aspen population: 916

Jan. 17, 1950, River District again discusses Aspen Reservoir.

Brown report cites water attorney Frank Delaney saying “As to Aspen Reservoir, he felt certain this would be of great utility to Western Colorado and should insure plenty of water in the Roaring Fork below it.” Also, minutes say “President Heuschkel here interposed the statement that he understood that at least some people in Aspen were opposed to the building of Aspen Reservoir.”

Feb. 2, 1950, Western-Colorado Water Planning Association meets in Aspen.

From AT: “The Board of Directors of the Aspen Chamber of Commerce met at the Ski and Spur last Tuesday noon and heard W. Lucas Woodall, president of the Western-Colorado Water Planning Association urge those present to stand united against further efforts to divert our water to the eastern slope. Woodall said that despite reports to the contrary, there has been no agreement of western slope interests on the first phase of the Gunnison-Arkansas diversion which will divert 60 to 70 thousand acre-feet from the Frying Pan River.”

“The attitude of the eastern slope water users or diversionists for diversion first and to hell with the use of the water in and on the basins of origin will cause people here to change their minds and want to give it to California. At least it will continue to flow past our cities and towns.”

Feb. 9, 1950, Aspenites urged to file on water rights.

AT: “This is an important notice to all water users on the Roaring Fork river and its tributaries. Anyone having conditional water decrees or owning land that can be irrigated beneficially please get busy as soon as the weather permits to build the ditches to irrigate your land and get your water rights adjudicated as soon as possible. Do not delay. Protect your water rights and acquire all additional water that you can put to beneficial use. Leonis J. Usel, Director, Colorado River Water Conservation District.”

A view of Aspen and Aspen Mountain, taken from the Eriksen Ranch on Red Mountain. The charm factor was quite high in Aspen in the 1950s, and the ski area was still taking shape on Aspen Mountain. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Sept. 27, 1951, James H. Smith, Fred Glidden and Tom Sardy oppose additional transmountain diversions.

AT: “Fred Glidden, James H. Smith and Tom Sardy met with the Glenwood Springs Lions Club last week in the interest of the fight against diversion out of the Frying Pan River to the Arkansas valley.”

Nov. 22, 1951, Pitkin County men vote against diversions at meeting.

AT: “James Hopkins Smith, Jr., Tom Sardy, Leonis Usel and Fred Glidden drove to Grand Junction one day last week to represent Pitkin County at a water meeting. Local men joined in the rejection of a resolution … which would have set up a committee to deal with the Bureau of Reclamation on … a survey of western slope water needs.”

Nov. 10, 1951, Smith speaks out at special river district meeting against diversions.

From Brown report of meeting minutes: “Mr. J.H. Smith, Jr. of Aspen said that the people of Pitkin County saw no good reason why they should not oppose any and every diversion and were planning to do so.”

January 1952, James H. Smith, Jr. joins the board of the Colorado River District as the representative from Pitkin County. He would serve until 1954.

Jan. 22, 1952, River District discusses Aspen’s view of Aspen Reservoir.

From Brown report: There was a “discussion of the attitude of Pitkin County people, especially those of Aspen, who feel that the proper course is to try to defeat the Fryingpan diversion in the Congress and do not wish to have the Aspen Reservoir built.”

April 24, 1952, Pitkin County Water Association meets at the Jerome.

AT: “Two men were selected to attend the hearing before the appropriations committee that will review the request for the 140 million dollars to start construction of thc Frying Pan-Arkansas diversion that is now before Congress. The men selected are Judge William R. Shaw and Leonard Woods. Two additional men are needed to accompany these two and one of them will be James H. Smith, president of the Association who is at present in Europe on a government assignment.”

Feb. 16, 1953, James Smith presents at CWCB meeting in Denver.

Per minutes. On behalf of the Pitkin County Water Protection Association, Smith presents a long Q&A document that essentially advocates that water to be left on Western Slope.

April 23, 1953, Smith and Glidden meet with secretary of the interior in DC.

AT: “James H. Smith and Fred Glidden left Monday for Washington, D. C. where they will confer with Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay on the proposed Arkansas-Frying Pan diversion project. Smith and Glidden are meeting with Secretary McKay at his invitation, preceding the hearings that will be held by the U. S. House interior committee in June on the $150 million dollar project that may divert 70,000 acre feet from the Frying Pan and Hunter Creek, most of the water originating in Pitkin County.”

May 28, 1953, Mountain Utilities being sold to Holy Cross.

AT: “Holy Cross Electric Association, Glenwood Springs, was loaned $635,000 to buy and rehabilitate the Mountain Utilities Corp., serving Aspen and surrounding territory.” The loan was from the federal REA program.

July 2, 1953, Hearing set to review Holy Cross purchase of Mountain Utilities, Aspen Water Co. formed

AT: “ …  a hearing will be held in Denver July 10 and in Aspen July 11, on an application of the Holy Cross Electric Association of Glenwood Springs, to purchase the electric generating and distribution system in Aspen owned now by the Mountain Utilities Corporation. At this same hearing the application of the Aspen Water Company, a newly formed company, to take over the assets of the water system will be heard.”

Aug. 6, 1953, PitCo Water Protection Association writes letter to CWCB.

From minutes of CWCB meeting: Fred D. Glidden, of Pitkin County Water Protection Association, writes a letter to a CWCB board member urging a fresh review of the Fry-Ark project.

The incomparable Freddie Fisher and his float in the 1954 Winterskol parade. The sign says: Aspen 1960, the rape of the Roaring Fork, or, who pulled the plug? Credit: Aspen Historical Society

April 7, 1955, Letters-to-the-editor in Life magazine, and “Rape of the Roaring Fork” pamphlets are available at chamber of commerce.

AT: “The Pitkin County Water Protection Association received an assist from Life Magazine by their publishing two letters to the editors in the April 4 edition regarding the Frying Pan-Arkansas Water Diversion. There are plenty of copies of The Rape of the Roaring Fork on hand at the Chamber of Commerce office. Everyone can participate in this fight to keep our water by sending a copy to someone in another slate to will write his congressman to oppose this bill. These pamphlets are powerful weapons. Use them.”

May 12, 1955, Healy Ranch sold to James H. Smith.

AT: “John L. Healy has announced that he has sold his ranch on the Roaring Fork located about two miles above Aspen, to Mr. James Hopkins Smith who owns the property adjoining. The Healy ranch contains about 37 and a half acres and has been owned by the Healy family since 1893 when it was purchased by Mr. Healy’s father, Michael James Healy. Water rights for this property were adjudicated in 1895 and is one of the oldest on record.”

May 26, 1955, PitCo Water Association seeks funds.

AT: “Bill Chalfant, president of the Pitkin County Water Protection Association reports that the association’s funds are very low … The association feels that the mailings of the very effective Rape of the Roaring Fork has helped to induce thousands of persons over the country to write their congressmen and senators in protest against the diversion.”

April 4, 1956, Holy Cross sells water rights to City of Aspen, per Covell letter of March 6, 2009.

Holy Cross sells its 160 cfs of Castle Creek water rights to the city. Covell says that of these rights, up to 33 cfs are used for the city’s municipal water supply and there is commitment to meet the 12 cfs ISF right on Castle Creek. Holy Cross also sold the Maroon Creek rights 65 cfs in the Maroon Ditch and 3.4 cfs from the Nestell Ditch. The city’s conditional right to the Maroon Creek pipeline is for 68.4 cfs.

April 19, 1956, City takes possession of electric utility from Holy Cross.

AT: “Mayor A .E. Robinson (who was also head of the Aspen Water Co.), who is managing the details of the transfer of the electric generating and distributing plant from Holy Cross to the City, reports that the purchase price, $124,000 has been deposited in the bank.”

May 17, 1956, Orest Gerbaz of Pitkin County refutes a statement about the level of opposition to the Fry-Ark project made by Colorado’s governor.

AT: “Gerbaz … said it is totally false that there are only a few Democrats in Pitkin County fighting the Frying Pan Arkansas Project. Ninety percent of the people in Pitkin county are opposing it, Republicans and Democrats alike.”

May 31, 1956, James H. Smith Jr. resigns Navy post.

AT: “Mr. James H. Smith, for the past three years serving as Assistant Sec. of the Navy for Air, has resigned his position effective June 20. Sec. Smith maintains his legal residence here and is expected to spend a great deal of time at their ranch, located two miles above Aspen when he is free from his duties in Washington.”

June 14, 1956, Water conditions to be subject of engineer’s report.

AT: “During the Planning Commission meeting a report by the Special Advisory Committee was read to the commission by Edgar Stanton. In the report the special committee recognized existence of certain problems and the need for a complete study of the water system, which at present is privately owned, and suggested it be authorized to conduct a feasibility report as the first step in alleviating the problem.”

July 19, 1956, AT editorial: “Help stop the rape”

AT editorial: “A week ago the Frying Pan-Arkansas river diversion project was passed by the U.S. Senate. It is now before a House committee and may come up for a vote before Congress adjourns this month. We feel this measure, often called The Rape of the Roaring Fork, instigated by certain vested interests in Eastern Colorado and sponsored by the Reclamation Service, is bad and should be defeated.”

Aug. 17, 1956, River District board meeting minutes cite a meeting in Aspen on April 17, 1956 to discuss possible formation of a “Pitkin County water conservancy district.”

The Brown report also says “there followed a discussion in which [River District Attorney] Barnard pointed out that (the) Eastern Slope was engaging in a water rush on the Western Slope. He suggested the only defense was for the River District to engage in a program of wholesale filing of claims.”

A line for Lift 1 at the base of Aspen Mountain, in the late 1950s. The popularity of the young ski area was increasing and optimistic growth projections were being made. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

August 1956, Dale Rea, a consulting engineer, submits a water plan to the city, which had just acquired water rights on Castle and Maroon creeks, as well as the private water company serving the city

Report was called “Water Supply for the City of Aspen, Colorado” and is dated August, 1956.

In his report, Rea said there was “sufficient water” available from Castle Creek “without storage.”

“The city’s best water right is out of Castle Creek with priority No. 136a in the water district for 60 cubic feet per second (for) irrigation and domestic supply,” Rea wrote. “Therefore the city would have no problem on Castle Creek with respect to water rights or adequately (sic) of supply, as low flow records on Castle Creek indicate that the supply is more than double the future requirements of the city.”

Under the heading of “surface supply,” Rea declared that “Surface water supply in Aspen should be no problem, as Pitkin County probably has a greater run-off per acre than any county in Colorado.”

And under the heading of “reliability,” he noted, “In some communities severe drought conditions and underground pumping of individual development will gradually diminish the surface flow to a point where it is dangerous for a city to rely strictly on surface water flow. Fortunately this is not the case in Aspen, as the large drainage basin of each of the streams under study are sufficient to yield a continuous flow at all times.”

It’s notable that in Rea’s 1956 water study for the city, there is no mention of storage reservoirs on Castle and Maroon creeks. His view on the matter would change by 1964.

City Hall in Aspen in 1956, on an unpaved Galena Street. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Aug. 30, 1956, Engineer Submits Water Report To Council

AT: Authorized on July 1, a feasibility report on the Aspen water system was submitted to the City Council last week by Dale H. Rea, consulting engineer. Purpose of the report was to present the city with a plan or plans for obtaining an adequate and state approved water system with the least possible cost and effort.

“Covering a 20-year period from 1957 to 1977, the report included requirements, supply, treatment, distribution, operation, maintenance, finance and revenue of a complete system. It incorporates an estimated 1,700 to 3,500 permanent residents with provisions for transient populations of 5,000.”

“Four different plans were examined based on the four available sources of water and three of the plans were recommended. Those recommended utilized Hunter Creek, Castle-Maroon Creeks and the Roaring Fork as sources of supply.”

“Utilizing both Castle Creek and Maroon Creek as its source, Plan 2 was advised if the acquisition of early water right priorities was impractical for the other two schemes.”

“Even though he called the existing water system completely inadequate and said that it would be necessary to practically start from scratch, Rea advised the City of Aspen to purchase the Aspen Water Company.”

Sept. 13, 1956, “City Water Talks Fail,” reports The Aspen Times

AT: “Negotiations between the City Council and Fred Hendy, owner of the Aspen Water Co., failed almost before they began last Tuesday, Sept. 11, when Hendy refused to consider any offer less than $150,000 for his system and water rights.”

“Tuesday’s parley made the second consecutive night that the Council met with Hendy to discuss purchase of his water system. A session between the two parties was also held Monday night following a public meeting during which engineer Dale Rea explained his recent feasibility report.”

“In his refusal to consider any purchase price less than $150, 000, Hendy stated that if negotiations with the city failed he would withdraw from the Pitkin County Water Protection Association and look into selling his water rights to the Eastern Slope.”

December 1956, River District board meeting discussion of Aspen Reservoir.

Brown report: “The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project remained only a dream – or nightmare – stalled in Congress as 1956 drew to a close. It still envisioned a 28,000 acre-foot reservoir at Aspen.”

Aug. 22, 1957, “Success Appears Certain For City Water Efforts”

AT: “Local attempts to obtain safe water and an acceptable water system seem at long last headed for definite success following the last meeting of the City Council last Monday, Aug. 19.”

“(Dale) Rea, a Littleton, Colo., engineer, was formerly hired by the City to prepare a feasibility report last summer on the water system. His report was used during unsuccessful negotiations to purchase the system last fall. Following last year’s unsuccessful purchase attempts the city took steps to acquire a new system by construction, but its proposal was defeated at the polls last March.”

Sept. 26, 1957, “Humorous Side Of Water Problem Aired By Letter”

AT: Former Aspen resident Matthew O’Block had a letter published in the Denver Post. “Why all the fuss and fury over the Aspen water system? With 15 pubs dispensing grog in Aspen, who drinks water anyway?”

The famous Red Onion in February 1958, when cars could still park in front of the bar and restaurant. The delivery truck is likely delivering Coors, according to the logo on the driver’s-side door. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

1958, Aspen residents vote to buy the assets of the Aspen Water Company

Aug. 20, 1958, CWCB director says Aspen Reservoir out

Letter from Felix Sparks: “I am enclosing a tentative agreement worked between Eastern and Western Slope interests pertaining to this matter. I call your particular attention to Principle 2 which, in effect, provides for Western Slope storage as a substitute for the proposed Aspen Reservoir. The Aspen Reservoir has long been a matter of great contention and has been one of the principle stumbling blocks in the past in securing authorization for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It seems advisable, therefore, to immediately attempt to find more suitable storage sites in Western Colorado for replacement and compensatory storage.”

Aug. 28, 1958, Aspen Reservoir “dies” at River District meeting.

Brown report: River District decides to build another reservoir than Aspen Reservoir, but spend the same amount of money. Brown report: “Thus died the Aspen Reservoir feature of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.” That declaration was a bit premature, though.

Sept. 18, 1958, Noteworthy Water Butt Of Sentinel Joke This Week

AT: “One of Aspen’s most publicized commodities, its unsafe drinking water, received new attention in Monday’s Grand Junction Sentinel. The daily pointed out in a story datelined Aspen that the water which is presently being pumped into the Roaring Fork river from the recently completed sewage disposal plant is safer and cleaner than the water being pumped around Aspen by the Aspen Water Company. The story noted that the State Health Department had, for the fourth consecutive month, reported that Aspen’s water tested unsafe. It added that sanitation district secretary V. E. Ringle pointed out that there is absolutely no stream pollution in the Fork from Aspen’s sewage. The only thing that goes into the river from the plant is pure, clean, chlorinated water. The final paradox is that Aspen has been striving just as long to get pure drinking water as it has to get pure sewage.”

Oct. 16, 1958, Fry-Arkansas Reservoir In Aspen Abandoned by CWCB

AT: “The Colorado Water Conservation Board has definitely dropped plans for a 6,000 acre-foot reservoir above Aspen, director Felix L. Sparks said last week. The plan had received vigorous opposition from Aspenites. A survey team of board employees and reclamation bureau experts examined two possible sites and found neither feasible, according to Sparks. As a result, maps of a larger Western slope area are now being studied for possible sites.”

Nov. 12, 1958, Aspen Reservoir discussed at CWCB board meeting

Per minutes, Felix Sparks tells the CWCB board:“We have been trying very hard to locate additional storage sites in Western Colorado to replace the Aspen Reservoir.

“We have made several trips along the Roaring Fork River where the Aspen Reservoir is contemplated. We had field parties over for several weeks off and on, both from this Board and from the Bureau of Reclamation, making surveys. There appears to be no feasible site on the Roaring Fork River other than the Aspen Reservoir site.”

“There are other small sites but the cost of those small sites is completely out of proportion to the amount of water that could be stored there. So it appears that there is no suitable site other than the Aspen site and if the people of Pitkin County do not want the Aspen site, there appears to be no point in pursuing that site any further.”

“I think it is a grave mistake on the part of the people of Pitkin County but nevertheless they are the ones who are in a position to decide. We have had no interest whatsoever shown in the construction of that reservoir from that county.”

The White Kitchen Cafe and Louie’s Spirit House, on Hyman Avenue. If there was consensus on issues in Aspen in the 1950s, it may well have been formed in the White Kitchen. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Nov. 14, 1958, Colorado River District Board meeting

Philip P. Smith, the secretary-engineer of the River District filed a quarterly report to the board.

“On October 1st, and again on October 15th, I worked in the Aspen area with representatives of the Bureau of Reclamation and the State Water Board on determining locations of potential reservoirs alternative to the Aspen site. We visited Tagert Lake and Difficult Creek sites on the Roaring Fork and traversed Castle Creek, tributary to the Roaring Fork just west of Aspen.”

“Mr. Mansfield Merriman, the ranking Bureau geologist, on our Oct. 1st field trip, rejected the Tagert Lake site because of foundation conditions and took a rather dim view of the foundation conditions at the Difficult Creek site.”

“Upon traversing Castle Creek we found limited storage possibilities at three potential sites. Mr. Merriman, however, was fearful of foundation conditions at all except the upper site, which would involve the construction of a dam approximately 120 feet in height to store some six to eight thousand acre feet of water. This dam would be located on Castle Creek proper, approximately two miles downstream from the town of Ashcroft. The Bureau of Reclamation representatives were inclined to reject this site because of the difficulty that would be experienced in transmitting the water stored from Castle Creek to a point on the Roaring Fork above the heading for the Salvation Ditch.”

Nov. 14, 1958, minutes of Colorado River District

Same date as above, but the minutes of the meeting, not the report …

Wayne Aspinall was at the meeting, as was Felix Sparks, the head of the CWCB. Aspinall’s comments are a story in themselves, but Sparks spent a lot of time discussing the Aspen Reservoir in response to a question from Orest A. Gerbaz, who was Pitkin County’s representative on the River District board.

At the meeting, Gerbaz asked Sparks about an article in the Grand Junction Sentinel entitled “Sparks clarifies the power situation,” from Sept. 28, 1958.

“This is the point I’m concerned about,” Gerbaz said, before reading the following from the newspaper clipping: “The sites are being investigated as alternates for the proposed Aspen Reservoir, which is scheduled as a unit of the Frying Pan-Arkansas transmountain diversion. Sparks commented that if the Aspen Reservoir is not constructed Pitkin County will have suffered a great loss; nevertheless, there is no point in attempting to build the reservoir if local opposition continues to exist.”

Gerbaz then said, “I don’t know who is opposing storage as such.”

Then Felix Sparks spoke.

“What we were thinking about, however, was a smaller site, purely to take care of the Salvation Ditch and for any other uses that might develop around Aspen. But when you start building a small four or five thousand foot dam your cost per foot is so much greater than when you build a 28,000 foot dam, because you have the same foundation problems no matter where you go on the Roaring Fork. Your conditions are the same; we found them to be the same anywhere up and down the Roaring Fork.”

“The Bureau builds these things in the final analysis and they say this thing is going to cost ten million dollars for 8000 feet. We can build it if that is what you want, but I don’t think that is what you want. I don’t think you want to pay, say four million dollars for 6000 feet, or even a million dollars.”

“Remember, the Aspen Reservoir is not an economical thing. It can never be done on its own. It is not economical, that is what western Colorado wanted and so the state went along with that, and that is what we came up with. That’s what your Board that was appointed here; that is what you came up with at that time. Now, that is a very expensive dam. As Mr. Gerbaz pointed out, it is very expensive for 28,000 acre feet of water. But, nevertheless, the Bureau planned it as part of the Frying Pan Project.”

Sparks on efforts by Reclamation to find a replacement site for Aspen Reservoir:

“Now the Bureau is just as anxious as anyone I know of to find this replacement storage. When they send their top engineer of the United States up here to look over these sites then you know they are serious. Region 7 is anxious to stay in business and they don’t have any projects at the present time that amount to anything expect some down in Nebraska, so they are just as anxious as anyone to come up with a suitable location. They told me they would turn loose of anybody. They have brought people in from their other offices already. Their surveyors and our surveyors have been up here about two weeks, up here surveying in the snow and they will come back up here as soon as we come up with some more sites if they have to stand in snow neck deep. We have got to get it done. So we are doing everything humanly possible.”

Spark on opposition from Aspen:

“Mr. Smith, for instance, and Mr. Dixon have been very vociferous. Congressman Saylor somehow has taken a great dislike to the Aspen Reservoir.”

“Mr. Gerbaz,” Sparks continued. “If the opposition of Pitkin County is directed solely to the transmountain diversion, and that I can understand, if that is the sole objection – Let’s assume that the transmountain diversion would take place anyhow. Would you then want storage at the Aspen site?”

“I would have to talk with those people up there at Aspen,” Gerbaz said. “I won’t say they like the site. I won’t say they will like it, but we are going to have to have storage whether we have diverion or not. We are going to need storage without … ”

“I just want to make it clear that so far as the state is concerned and as far as the Bureau is concerned, we have not thrown out the Aspen site. That is one site that we could go ahead with and construct. We know that now. These others, we will come up with alternate sites, but I say, as my firm opinion, that there will never be any storage on the Roaring Fork unless the Aspen Reservoir is built. It is just not economically feasible and it is only feasible in connection with some other project.”

Nov. 20, 1958, Times editorial: Reservoir “Of Potential Benefit”

AT: “A resolution which may have great import to residents in the Aspen Area was quietly passed last month by the Utility Board. In it, the five-man board which governs city-owned utilities, empowered Chef Anderson, manager of the electric department to investigate the feasibility of a storage dam below Aspen. As every resident knows the City owns a power plant on Castle Creek just west of town and much water in both Maroon and Castle creeks. Although the city now buys its power from the government, there is no telling when it will again need to generate its own power. A storage dam would be of great potential benefit … We hope the Colorado River Water Conservation District Board, which has been asked for assistance, will cooperate and that the study results in a local storage dam.”

December 1958, executive committee meeting of the River District. Brown report says the “Aspen-Ruedi matter was the subject of exhaustive discussion again.”

According to the Brown report, Aspen City Attorney Clinton Stewart told an official with the Bureau of Reclamation, Joseph Barrett, that he believed “it would be imperative that there be some sort of storage above Aspen.”

Barrett responded by saying, “So far as the Bureau is concerned, we don’t care where you put that reservoir. If you would eliminate it altogether we would be very happy.”

And, “The foundation conditions at the Aspen [site] was the big reason for the high cost, but the reservoir is feasible. The dam site is feasible. It is expensive because it is not the best site, but it is safe.”

The Brown report also says: “Later, Gerbaz asked if the Castle Creek dam site, the Ashcroft, was studied. Sparks [the head of CWCB] said it was examined and had only a small amount of possible storage.”

“Gerbaz asked about Maroon Creek. Barret said a Bureau engineer ‘did drive up Maroon Creek and back down and didn’t see anything that was good. There are no good dam sites over in there; he didn’t see anything that was remotely good.’”

Feb. 7, 1959, Water buffaloes meet with Wayne Aspinall in Denver about Aspen

The Brown report, citing minutes of a Feb. 10 River District board meeting, states: “Mr. Barnard then noted that on Feb. 7, 1959, he, Felix Sparks, Robert Delaney and Phillip P. Smith met with Congressman Chenoweth and Aspinall in Denver. He stated that the District representatives were very pleased with Congressman Aspinall’s attitude in that he insisted that definite limitations must be placed on the amount of water to be diverted by the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and that, if the people of Aspen so desired, some storage must be placed on the Roaring Fork on its tributaries upstream from the Town of Aspen.”

Feb. 12, 1959, Aspen Water Found Unsafe In December

AT: “Aspen’s water tested as unsafe in the month of December as it did last July, according to the Colorado State Department of Public Health’s most recent report. Twenty percent of the samples taken from Aspen Water Company pipelines were unsafe, the report showed.”

“The water company is owned by Frederick Hendy who is presently involved in drawn-out negotiations with the City of Aspen which is in the process of condemning the system.”

March 5, 1959, Pabst on board to review value of Aspen Water Co.

AT: “The board of commissioners named to hear arguments in a court action in which the city hopes to acquire the Aspen Water Company system was slightly rejuggled last week. Originally named by Judge Clifford Darrow to the board, William Stapleton was replaced on the board by Harry F. Gerbaz, Woody Creek rancher. Other members are Steve Marolt, a retired rancher, and Harold Pabst, Snowmass rancher.”

March 12, 1959, Council, Utility Board Meet, Discuss Water

AT: “How to get a safe water system in the quickest possible time in the most efficient way was the subject of discussion last Thursday, March 5, at a special joint meeting of the Aspen City Council and the Utility Board.

“Present to advise the two groups on what action should be taken once the city acquires the system following its condemnation suit next month was Consulting Engineer Dale H. Rea, Littleton, Colo.”

“Rea, who was the author of a feasibility report in 1956 on the development of an acceptable water system for the City, told the assembled officials that the only logical source of water at the present time was Castle Creek. This is the only source on which the City owns adequate water rights.

“Apparent Aspen Water Company rights on Hunter Creek are inadequate and too junior to serve the City’s needs. Other rights are under litigation, the officials were told.”

“Following Rea’s report and a general discussion it was decided to take his recommendations drawing up the plans necessary to develop a state-approved system using Castle Creek as a source of water.”

“Although the City Council must take all action necessary to acquiring the water system, once it is acquired it becomes the duty of the Utility Board to manage it, according to local ordinance. The meeting adjourned at approximately 11 PM with the understanding that Rea would complete the plans for the most necessary and most immediately needed improvements before the condemnation trial date April 13.”

Stuart Mace with his dog sled team in the Ashcroft area, about 1960. The pristine nature of the Ashcroft area was well-known when the idea of putting a dam there was a topic of much discussion. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

April 7, 1959, PitCo rep on River District Board insists on a reservoir in Aspen area

Brown report: “Gerbaz had insisted on designating a reservoir in the Aspen area and apparently there was some question as to whether Aspinall would be agreeable. President Hansen noted, ‘It is my impression that Aspinall was quite favorable to a small storage project in the Aspen area – insistent on it.”

“Attorney Barnard of the River District said ‘I think we should insist on it if it will not kill the bill. If naming that reservior will give them additional guarantees I think they should have it.’

“And Philip Smith of the River District said ‘It will give them some satisfaction they do not have now. Another thing, by naming that Ashcroft site it provides for the only one the Bureau geologists did not object to among the sites inspected this winter in the Aspen area.’”

April 21, 1959, River District meeting, board approves Fry-Ark operating principles.

Per the Brown report, this version of the principles approved by the River District  described the relationship with Aspen, Ruedi, and Ashcroft reservoirs in a different way than over versions:

“The Ruedi Reservior shall be constructed and maintained on the Fryingpan River above the town of Basalt with an active capacity of not less than 100,000 acre feet. In addition thereto and in order to offset adverse stream flow conditions on the Roaring Fork River above the town of Aspen which might occur as a result of the project enlargement of the Twin Lakes Reservoir, the Ashcroft Reservoir on Castle Creek, or some reservoir in lieu thereof, shall be constructed on the Roaring Fork drainage above Aspen to a capacity of approximately 5,000 acre-feet; providing, however, that such reservoir shall be constructed only if the Secretary of the Interior after appropriate study shall determine that its benefits exceed the costs as provided by law.”

April 30, 1959, “Fry-Ark Plan Seems Headed For Clear Sailing”

AT: “Minus its former provisions involving Aspen and the Roaring Fork River, the controversial, many-times-defeated Fryingpan-Arkansas Project now seems headed for clear sailing after compromise changes were approved last week.”

May 7, 1959, Water Price Is $122,987

AT: “Although all parties concerned have admitted that most of the mains, pipes and flumes of the Aspen Water Company need to be replaced, a value of $122,987 was given to the water system by the three court-appointed commissioners Monday, May 4.”

“The three Pitkin County ranchers serving on the commission, Harold Pabst, Steve Marolt and Harvey Gerbaz, reached their decision at approximately 2:30 PM Monday.”

“In his final appeal to the commissioners Glen Saunders, water company attorney, told the commissioners that although the system was old it could still serve for a few more years and that the local people would not mind and that tourists from Denver could not expect to get the same high quality water here as at home.”

June 18, 1959, “Maps Being Made Of Reservoir Plan At Ashcroft Site”

AT: “Field engineering work is now in progress on the proposed Ashcroft Reservoir on Castle Creek. This was learned at the meeting of the executive committee of the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs last week. The proposed Ashcroft Reservoir is one of two that might be built to store water for Western Colorado. Maps are being prepared of the area for future use of the Conservation District if the project goes through.”

June 18, 1959, “Council votes to accept water company price”

AT: “Aspen’s long-standing water crisis came several steps closer to being resolved last week when the City Council voted to accept the court-established price of $122,987 and take over the water system July 1.”

July 1, 1959, City acquires water system. The precise date was cited in a 1990 Aspen water plan

July 21, 1959, Meeting of Colorado River District re: Ashcroft Reservoir

From the district’s legal and engineering report to the board, which included a basin-by-basin update. Under the heading, “The Roaring Fork and Frying Pan Basins:”

“Two participating projects and one transmountain diversion project affect this area. The two participating projects are the West Divide and the Basalt. The transmountain diversion is to be accomplished by the Frying Pan – Arkansas Project. In addition, the construction of the Ashcroft Reservoir on Castle Creek, or an acceptable substitute therefor, forms a part of the proposed development on the Roaring Fork.”

“ … we should see to it that the construction of the Ashcroft Reservoir is effected, if such construction is found to be feasible. Survey work on the Ashcroft Reservoir has been completed, and a map and statement thereof will be filed in the Office of the State Engineer in the near future within the time provided by the statute.”

A view of the Castle Creek Valley and the location of the Elk Mountain lodge, looking toward Ashcroft, taken in 1965. A caption below the photo read: Vacation at Elk Mountain Lodge, where scenic beauty, good fishing, perfect climate, and hospitality abound. Ten miles of stream and three lakes. Eleven furnished cabins. Saddle horses, home cooked meals if desired. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

July 30, 1959, A map is filed with the state engineer by the Colorado River District claiming water rights for the Ashcroft Reservoir.

The claim is for a 140-foot-tall dam on Castle Creek holding 9,056.7 AF for $1,845,000. The dam would have been located about where the Elk Mountain Lodge parcel is today.

Today, the city claims that mention of the Ashcroft Reservoir in the Fry-Ark authorizing legislation gives some level of standing to the Castle Creek Reservoir, which would be located two miles below Ashcroft.

Oct. 15, 1959, City Changes Plans, Decides To Consider Hunter Creek

AT: “Reversing their thinking of the past few months, members of the City Council and the Utility Board decided to look further into the possibility of building a new water system on Hunter Creek at a joint meeting Monday, Oct. 12.”

“Previous to Monday’s meeting the two groups had oriented plans for a new system on Castle Creek. During the summer a vote was taken to consider Castle Creek as the primary source for water and to begin making plans accordingly.”

“At Monday’s meeting the two groups decided to see if it would be possible and feasible to purchase enough water rights on Hunter Creek to enable the city to use that source.

“At Monday’s meeting, and at several previous meetings, Engineer Dale Rea informed officials that additional water rights would be needed before Hunter Creek could be considered. The city already owns more than enough rights on Castle Creek to enable it to use that stream as the primary source for its system.”

And, in the same issue of The Aspen Times, an editorial, “A Decision Is Needed”

“Almost each week since last Spring the merits of Castle versus Hunter Creek were debated. And at each discussion it was decided that without additional rights Hunter Creek would be an inadequate source. During the summer it was voted to consider Castle Creek the primary supply and to plan the new system accordingly. Preliminary construction, now in progress, was started on this understanding .

“Monday, Engineer Dale Rea presented a rough series of sketches for more Castle Creek construction. After having worked with the city three years, he was told that nothing more should be done until someone discovered how much the senior Hunter Creek water rights would cost. It seems no one had asked.”

“Everyone hopes so. But if the rights are not for sale or even if they are priced at the going rate, the city would be faced with an added cost of from $60,000 to $120,000. Then Castle Creek would again come up for consideration.”

Oct. 29, 1959, Interior Dept. issues press release on Aspen Reservoir and Ruedi

“Ruedi Dam is a potential feature of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Colorado, offered as a substitute for the controversial Aspen Dam and Reservoir, originally proposed for construction on the Roaring Fork River.”

“Commission of Reclamation Floyd E. Dominy said the proposed dam would be a 270-foot earthfill structure which would create a 100,000 acre-foot reservoir covering an area of only 1,000 acres.”

Nov. 19, 1959, James H. Smith Elected As Trustee Of NY Art Museum

AT: “Aspenite James Hopkins Smith, Jr. has been elected to the board of trustees of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, it was announced Thursday, Nov. 12 by the chairman of the board.

“Smith, who has a ranch east of Aspen, is a trustee of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, a member of the Harvard Visiting Committee and of the Denver Research Institute Advisory Board.

“He recently resigned as director of the International Cooperation Administration, to which he was appointed in 1957. Headquarters for the government agency are in Washington. Smith was Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air from 1953 to 1956. He is a director of the Aspen Company, the South Texas Development Company and the Wytex Oil Corp.”

The corner of Mill and Main streets in Aspen in the early 1960s. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

1960, Aspen population: 1,101

March 14, 1960, Interior Department report on Ruedi Dam and Reservoir

P.9: “’Ashcroft Reservoir’ means not only the reservoir contemplated for construction on Castle Creek, a tributary of the Roaring Fork River, but also, unless the context requires otherwise, any other reservoir that may be constructed in the Roaring Fork basin above the town of Aspen in lieu of that Reservoir.”

April 15, 1960, Dale Rea to again work for city on its water system

AT: “Denver Engineer Dale Rea will continue to serve the City of Aspen for work on the water system it was decided Tuesday evening, April 5, at a special joint meeting of the City Council and the Utility Board.”

“It was decided at that session, attended by Rea, to offer him a contract to cover work on the new system. Terms of the contract were discussed at the meeting. Also discussed at length were ways of improving the system. Although no decisions were made, it was indicated that a test well would be drilled within the next few days and that if feasible, wells would be used as a source for the new system.”

“Rea was first hired by the city in 1956 to make a feasibility report for constructing a new system. Later he served as an expert witness for the city when it acquired the system by condemnation. Last year he supervised the work of installing a new main.”

There was lot of construction underway in Aspen in September 1960, including trenching on Main Street in front of the Hotel Jerome to replace water pipes. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Oct. 28, 1960, “Possible water projects here discussed by CRWCD”

AT: “Rivers and water projects in three parts of Pitkin County were discussed by the Colorado River Water Conservation District board at its Tuesday, Oct. 18 meeting in Glenwood Springs.”

“Possible reservoir sites at Taggert Lake on the Roaring Fork River, near the Difficult Creek Campground east of Aspen, as well as one at Ashcroft, between the ghost town and Elk Mt. Lodge, were on the agenda.”

“The board heard that no drilling of the Taggert Lake reservoir site was started this past summer as originally planned because developments indicated that the proposed Ashcroft Reservoir might be better.”

“Either reservoir would store water for the Aspen area. A Bureau of Reclamation official from Grand Junction said a reconnaissance survey of the proposed Basalt project on the Fryingpan River could be expanded to include study of the Ashcroft site.”

Dec. 9, 1960, Fry-Ark operating principles approved by the state of Colorado, signifying agreement among West Slope and East Slope entities

July 6, 1962, Fry-Ark  project legislation approved

Aug. 16, 1962, Fry-Ark project approved

Both Public Law 87-590 and the Fry-Ark operating principles contain the same language concerning Ashcroft Reservoir: “The secretary (of the interior) shall investigate and prepare a report on the feasibility of a replacement reservoir at or near the Ashcroft site on Castle Creek, a tributary of the Roaring Fork River above its confluence with the Fryingpan River with a capacity of approximately 5,000 acre-feet, but construction thereof shall not be commenced unless said report, which shall be submitted to the president and the Congress, demonstrates the feasibility of said reservoir and is approved by Congress.”

Aug. 17, 1962, Pabst is named to director board of Aspen bank

AT: “Aspenite Harald Pabst was elected a director of the Bank of Aspen at a special meeting of the Board of Directors Tuesday, Aug . 14 …” “In addition to his directorship at the bank, Pabst is a trustee and Treasurer of the Aspen Institute and a director of the Aspen Skiing Corp.”

March 18, 1963, Aspen city council directs staff to continue  investigating a dam across the Roaring Fork River.

The minutes of the regular council meeting, under the heading, “Feasibility – water rights use,” state: “Discussed – water rights – and council directed that the city administrator continue the investigation of the feasibility of using the water rights owned by the City of Aspen from Hunter Creek, Maroon Creek, Castle Creek, the Roaring Fork River and other tributary sources, at a point on the Roaring Fork River, for the purpose of maximum efficiency in the generation of electric power, and for irrigation, domestic, and recreational purposes, and report back to council, it being the opinion of the council that the effective use of water at one source is most beneficial to the city and its inhabitants.”

Aug. 30, 1963, Aspen Times editorial, “If the dam is moved”

AT: “This week four eminent geologists reported to the Rocky Mountain Society and to the Bureau of Reclamation that they did not consider the proposed Ruedi Dam site suitable for a reservoir.”

“If the reservoir site is indeed unsuitable and the dam must be moved, why not move it to the Roaring Fork River below Aspen? The same storage functions could be realized, and the resulting lake would be more centrally located for recreation purposes.”

Sept. 3, 1963, Aspen city council decides to prepare plans for a dam across Roaring Fork River between town and Shale Bluffs, which would come to be known as the Paepcke Forebay, part of the Snowmass Project.

The minutes of a regular council meeting, under the heading, “Water – utilization program,” state: “Attorney Stewart and Council discussed plans for definite utilization of water and water rights. Point of diversion this side of Shale Bluffs. Dam for power, irrigation, flood control and recreation. A feasibility report is to be considered this fall, and the engineer should establish 2 to 3 damsites, and prepare plans.”

Then, under “Motion,” the minutes state: “A motion was made by Councilman Beyer, seconded by Councilman Melville, that Mr. Humphrey is directed to conduct investigation to determine the places of potential damsites on the mainstem of the Roaring Fork River below Aspen, for purposes of impounding water for industrial, domestic, irrigation and recreational purposes. Motion carried unanimously. Map and claim statement are to be filed with the state engineer.”

Sept. 23, 1963, Ruedi Damsite Gets Approval From Geologists

AT: “Disagreeing with local geologists, a special three man panel of outside experts reported Monday, Sept. 16 that the controversial Ruedi damsite was satisfactory.”

Oct. 25, 1963, Aspen city council candidates say water a key issue

AT headline: “Candidates speak on annexation, water, paving, police”

HARALD PABST Candidate for Mayor: “I would like, first, to emphasize that I am running with a Councilmen Slate consisting of Dr. Robert Barnard, Werner Kuster from Ward No. 1 and William McEachern and David Stapleton from Ward No. 2.

“This is an unusually able, aggressive, imaginative and independent group of men who complement each other in temperament and, at the same time, represent a broad cross section of Aspen business and professional life.”

“Although, the subject, of Aspen’s water supply has probably received more attention than any other problem, there is still much dissatisfaction and uncertainty expressed by Aspenites.”

“We feel that a thorough, factual re-evaluation of the water problem should be made, based on an inventory and analysis (volume, purity, etc.) of existing adjudicated water rights and related existing structures, cost of required improvements and new facilities, as well as operating costs. Only when all facts have been collected and thoroughly and impartially digested can an intelligent re-evaluation be made.”

“A person who has served as councilman during the period when the present system was devised and built, would oppose a re-evaluation of that system. It think it imperative, therefore, that the above slate be elected in its entirety.”

“Let us discourage the quick-buck artists, the overnight speculators, the instant philosophers, and build a solid future for Aspen, with the quality that will keep it a delight not only for present, but also for future residents and visitors. It can be done!”

WERNER KUSTER Candidate for Alderman:

“I have already talked about our water system at the last Aspen Seminar. Aspen must be sure that it has pure water. It is our responsibility to see that both our citizens and visitors are safe and protected and that we don’t have … There is no reason why we can’t have pure, good tasting, cheap water in enough volume so that we water on both sides of the street at the same time.”

DR. ROBERT BARNARD, Candidate for Alderman: “Water: It’s difficult to understand how a city such as Aspen can be surrounded by 4 rivers and still be plagued with an insufficient water supply that requires rationing during the summer months and is frequently found to be contaminated by disease-producing micro-organisms. And all this in the face of extremely high water costs to the consumer.”

“Large sums of money have been expended in acquiring and rebuilding the present water system and yet it remains inadequate in all respects. Therefore it would seem that the city fathers should step back and take a second look at what they are doing and see if perhaps there is a better way to ensure the city abundant pure water at a price everyone can afford to pay.”

“A further difficulty in the water situation lies in the fact that by ceasing to use any of the city’s surface water rights in the Roaring Fork River, Castle Creek or Maroon Creek, Aspen faces the serious risk of losing these water rights through non-use.”

“These water rights could be put to use in 2 ways; one thru using the water for domestic purposes and two by putting water back into the city ditches during the summer months.”

“Several years ago it was decided to pursue a program of filling wells as an alternative to using surface water. This was done with varying success. In the face of a continuing shortage of water the question arises now as to whether the city should dig more wells, supplement the present supply with surface water or return to the use of surface water entirely.”

“The way is not absolutely clear to anyone but this much is clear to me; the Aspen City Council owes it to the citizens to study the problem carefully and then embark on a long range plan to provide the city with abundant pure water at reasonable prices.”

WILLIAM T. (Bill) McEACHERN Candidate for Alderman:

“WATER I am not convinced that well water alone is the answer to Aspen’s water system. I would like to completely re-evaluate Aspen’s system keeping the next twenty-five years in mind. Our surface water rights should be used and protected to the fullest extent possible. I would like to see the city irrigation ditches reopened.”

Nov. 5, 1963, Aspen election results

According to The Aspen Times (on Nov. 8), 411 city voters went to the polls “to vote in a a new clean sweep four-man council and approve the concept of daylight savings for Aspen.”

Pabst ran unopposed and got 369 votes, Barnard got 128 votes, McEachern 166, Stapleton 160, and Kuster 94 votes.  The election saw 100 more ballots than were cast in 1961 and 30 more than cast in the 1959 election.

Nov. 8, 1963, a Berko photo of Pabst, new Aspen mayor, runs in Times.

AT: “A Dartmouth graduate and early skier, Harald Pabst, 48, first came to the Roaring Fork Valley to ranch in 1948 and moved into the City of Aspen in 1962. He was well known to Aspenites for his duties as Administrative Vice President of the Aspen Institute and director of the Aspen Skiing Corp. before his election as Mayor last Tuesday.”

March 2, 1964, Aspen City Council directs Rae to draw up plans. The reference to “Mr. Kerrigan” is to John Kerrigan, then the city manager, or “administrator” as the position was then called.

Council minutes: “Mr. Kerrigan reported that all councilmen had met with Dale Rae, and had directed Rae to investigate and draw up plans and specifications for a long range water plan. He outlined plan for providing additional water for the summer, and said negotiations are under way to obtain additional water rights on Hunter Creek.”

April 6, 1964, Rae gets new contract

Minutes: “Mayor Pabst then read proposed contract with Dale H. Rae for up-dating the water report. A motion was made by Councilman Barnard, seconded by councilman McEachern, to authorize the mayor and the city clerk to execute the contract with Dale Rae. Motion carried on roll call: Councilman Barnard aye; Kuster aye; McEachern aye.”

May, 1964, Feasibility report on treatment plant submitted

Summer 1964, Construction begins on Fry-Ark project

June 1, 1964, City contract with Rae finalized, re: minutes

Aug. 28, 1964, Bids for rebuilt Castle Creek diversion dam awarded

Council meeting minutes: “The following bids on the ‘Construction of Diversion Dam and Inlet Structure and 30” Raw Water Pipeline and Appurtenant Structures” were then reviewed and found to be order … ”

“ … Mr. Rea recommended that the bid be awarded to Ellett Construction Co. … Mr. Rae said he would give award to Ellett today as time is of the essence. Mr. Ellett said he would probably start work after Labor Day … ”

December 1964, Water supply report for Maroon and Castle

Rea prepared a “water supply and development feasibility study” for the city. Rea declared that storage would be necessary to meet what he conceded were “optimistic” population projections.

He wrote that one of the purposes of the report was to “project the growth of the community to require the full development of the city’s water rights.”

“The ultimate density of the entire Aspen valley from the lower end of the airport to the originally proposed Aspen Dam on the Roaring Fork is 65,980 people,” Rea wrote. “The water use for this population is estimated at 28 million gallons per day, to supply this water it will be necessary to construct dams on both Castle Creek and Maroon Creek and possibly Hunter Creek.”

Under “recommendations,” Rea wrote, “It is recommended that dam and reservoir sites be selected on Castle Creek and Maroon Creek and filings for their use be made with the state engineer.”

And notably, “It is recommended that any surplus water rights from the proposed development of these sites be sold to prospective downstream users.”

He wrote that his population projection was “on the optimistic side and ‘good times’ will have to remain if the projection is to be realized.”

“It is estimated that this population could be reached in about 40 to 50 years which is not too long to plan a water system,” Rea wrote. “At that time, the total estimated flows of Castle Creek and Maroon Creek will be needed to supply Aspen’s need of about 28 million gallons per day.

“In order to expand the supply in these two creeks, large storage reservoirs can be constructed one each creek,” Rea wrote. “This may be necessary to some degree before the 28 million gallon per day consumption is reached.”

Rae would later testify that he prepared a report that “resulted in the making of claims of the city to the state engineer for reservoirs or pipelines and reservoirs on Castle Creek to supply the city of Aspen in the foreseeable future.”

A crowd of people waiting next to a bus in Aspen in 1965. The bus says, Glenwood-Aspen Stage. By the mid-’60s, Aspen was gaining in popularity among visiting skiers. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

July 19, 1965, City council meeting, sets appropriation date for both dams

A cryptic note in the minutes is all there is, “Mr. Kerrigan said Dale Rea is preparing land filings on the reservoir,” but the minutes from this meeting were later offered to water court as proof the city approved Rae’s filing for the water rights.

John Kerrigan, the Aspen city manager, or administrator, in 1965. He appears to be standing outside of the Wheeler Opera House and holding a button that says, for some reason, There is no Aspen. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

July 20, 1965, Letter from John Kerrigan to Dale Rae

Rae references such a letter from the city, but it’s not in the city’s files, apparently, as it did not show up in a CORA request from Aspen Journalism.

Rae says in his letter of July 22, 1965, “In accordance with your letter of July 20, 1965, we offer the following report.”

July 22, 1965, letter from Rae to Kerrigan of Aspen

The letter is really a plan to look at four reservoirs, including the two big ones and two smaller regulatory reservoirs, which apparently didn’t make the cut. He offered rates for field work including survey and staking.

The report laid out plans for a “large storage reservoir” on both Castle and Maroon creeks, as well as a “regulatory reservoir” on each stream and “transmission of water to point of use.”

Rae was to look at the location of four dams, but only filed for two. The city should have drawings, therefore, on the location of the two “regulatory” reservoirs.

“Field work for preliminary filing could be done before snow falls if authorized at once,” Rae wrote.

He then says, “We believe these filings will greatly enhance your water rights. Further, in the case of Castle Creek, the need may not be too far in the future.”

(The above sentence may well sum up the city’s approach to the Castle Creek and Maroon Creek reservoirs: they will be good for the city’s water rights, and they might actually be necessary someday).

Rea also he notes, “This project has been discussed with the state engineer and it meets with his approval.”

Aug. 2, 1965, Aspen City Council meeting, votes on filing dam maps

From the minutes: “Dale Rea – filing with state engineer – on Maroon Creek Reservoir – discussed – and Councilman Barnard then moved to authorize Dale Rea to do the necessary work to file on dam site on Maroon Creek – the cost not to exceed $2,000.00. Motion seconded by Councilman Kuster. Roll call vote – Councilman Stapleton aye; McEachern aye; Barnard aye.”

There is no mention of how Pabst voted, or if he did, which is the pattern for a number of council meeting minutes of the time. Pabst was present at the meeting though. Aspen Journalism checked with clerk’s office on issue of Pabst apparently consistently not voting; they could not explain it.

September 1965, Rae begins work on surveying for the reservoir locations (per his 1966 testimony in water court).

Harald Pabst, October 1965, who was elected mayor of Aspen in November 1964. Two months after this photo was taken Pabst would sign the maps that created the conditional water rights for the Castle and Maroon creek reservoirs. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Dec. 6, 1965, Aspen City Council meeting, maps mentioned, mayor to sign

In the minutes, under the heading “Filings on Maroon and Castle Creek: Mr. Kerrigan referred to filings on Maroon and Castle Creek – maps to be signed by mayor and city clerk and sent to Dale Rea to be filed with state engineer.” (Kerrigan was city manager at the time.)

Dec. 29, 1965, Maroon Creek Reservoir map filed with state engineer

The map was signed by Aspen Mayor Harold Pabst. The survey and map of dam and reservoir prepared and signed by Dale Rea. The max height of the dam: 155 feet. Capacity: 4,567 acre feet. Source of supply: East and West Maroon. Estimated cost: $770,000. Work was commenced on the survey on Sept. 1, 1965.

Dec. 29, 1965, Castle Creek Reservoir map filed with state engineer

Map signed by Aspen Mayor Harold Pabst. Survey and map of dam and reservoir prepared and signed by Dale Rea. Max height of dam: 170 feet. Capacity: 9,062 acre feet. Source of supply: Castle Creek. Estimated cost: $790,000. Work was commenced on the survey on Sept. 1, 1965.

April 28, 1966, map filed for Snowmass Project by the Colorado River District.

Includes: Pabst Reservoir on lower Snowmass Creek (290 foot dam/73,644.6 AF/$9,760,000), Pabst Power Conduit, Paepcke Forebay on Roaring Fork River below sanitation plant locations (150 foot dam/4,760.1 AF/$1,595,000) and Gerbaz Conduit (600 cfs/4,500 feet long/$1,050,000).

A black and white photograph of the Aspen Times building on Main Street, 1965. The business on the left is Roy Vroom Realty, and on the right is Frontier Airlines. There is also a sign in the window of the Aspen Times building for Aspen radio station KSNO, which had their studio there (publisher Bil Dunaway was president of the radio corporation).

June 16, 1966, City of Aspen files for water right decree in Civil Action 5884 for Castle Creek Reservoir and Maroon Creek Reservoir.

The eventual decree, CA5884, also includes Ashcroft Reservoir on Castle Creek, Pabst Reservoir on Snowmass Creek, the Paepcke Forebay, a dam across the Roaring Fork at Shale Bluffs, and Snowmass Reservoir on Brush Creek. It also included the Coal Basin Reservoir and Hunter Creek Reservoir.

July 18, 1966, map filed by Janss Colorado Corp. with state engineer for Snowmass Reservoir, 110 foot-tall-dam holding 4,178 AF on Brush Creek at a cost of $470,000.

Jan. 3, 1966, New contract signed with Rae for “engineering services” per Aspen City Council meeting minutes

According to the archives of the Aspen Historical Society, this is a photo of the Aspen water plant under construction in 1966. The plant was a significant step forward for Aspen’s municipal water supply system. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Nov. 29, 1966, Rae testifies in water court in support of claimed rights

Civil action No. 5884, transcript. Attorney Janet Gaylord represented the city of Aspen before the judge concerning the reservoirs.

Rae was highly qualified. Three degrees from CU, including BS and MS in science. Worked 12 years for BuRec, including 11 in Denver. Had 19 years experience as consulting engineer for cities developing water systems, including Aspen, Durango, Englewood, and Littleton, “all of which involved the development of water supply and water rights and so forth.”

Started working for Aspen in July, 1956.

“At that time we made a feasibility report for the development of surface rights for the city … rights of Aspen … which included proposed rights on Hunter Creek, Castle Creek and Maroon Creek. We made the estimated cost for construction of a filter plant and diversion structure necessary to deliver and bring this water in the City of Aspen.”

He summarized his work with Aspen.

’56 to ’58, acquired the property of the system; ’58 to ’59, built 14-inch pipeline to power plant and took water from Castle/Maroon; ’60 to ’61, replaced original lines from 1880s.

Installed 30-inch pipe on Castle Creek diversion to bring 25 cfs to treatment plant, with a capacity of 12.5 cfs.

Based report largely on flows recorded by state engineer from 1913 to 1917.

Said that with projected low flows of 24 cfs in Castle and 16 cfs in Maroon Creek, “these flows would not suffice the city at the presently projected growth for more than I think five years.”

“This would mean that somewhere between … 1970 and 1975 that the city would need supplemental flows either from Maroon Creek which it is not now presently using or the construction of a storage of Castle Creek so the proposed steps of development is that within the next five or ten years the city would in addition to the present 25 second feet diverted out of Castle Creek fill a pipeline which filling has been made out of Maroon Creek, they will need to build a reservoir on Castle Creek and later a reservoir on Maroon Creek. While that will take care of the city of Aspen for the foreseeable future.”

On population:

Said his estimates took “into account transit population and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the people who are permanent residents in Aspen, therefore, it’s equivalent population in 1965 this is approximately seven thousand population, in 1990 it runs up to approximately thirty thousand population and it is on these basis that we have found that it is necessary for Aspen to have storage on these streams in order to meet this population.”

[According to the Aspen Daily News in 2008: “Aspen’s year-round residential population is reported to be 6,400; however, each day approximately 15,000 people are in town. And during the Christmas holidays and July, the peak population reaches 30,000, not including Snowmass Village, the remainder of Pitkin County or the Roaring Fork River valley.”

“The Roaring Fork River is also used by Aspen as its community sewer, albeit the sewage is treated by the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District before being released into the river.”

“In 2007, the average daily flow of sewage to the treatment plant, which is next to the river below the Aspen Airport Business Center, was about 1.5 million gallons, which means there were an average of 14,362 people in town each day. The plant can handle 3 million gallons a day, which is enough capacity for about 31,000 people.”]

Back to Rae:

Rae was asked by the court: “When is it, the proposed project, when is it proposed to complete this project … ?”

He responded, “Well, they have three alternatives I would say between ’70 and ’75 one of these will need to be constructed in order to implement the direct flow.”

He also said, “The earliest would be ’70 to ’75.”

He also said while the city might build them both, “but from the actual demand they would build this one first and the other one later.”

And again on timing:

“It is proposed that they drill the two reservoir sites for the geological surveys, and depending upon that results they will select either the Maroon Creek Reservoir or Castle Creek Reservoir and it will be constructed and there is no time schedule for the second reservoir. I would assume that all of these facilities would be needed within the next 35 years.”

And, “All reservoirs and pipelines complete which would be the turn of the century.”

Castle Creek could be built in stages:

“It could be built in stages, it could be enlarged depending upon the money available and bids that would be received.”

On when the water is most needed:

In the “summertime peak and the wintertime peak that is around the Christmas area, where there is a great influction of people.”

“Aspen has the unusual character of needing the water both in the dead of winter and heat of summer.”

Lawyer leads him to say winter is time of greatest shortages:

“So in the wintertime there is a great necessity, there would be a small amount of water unless stored. Is that correct?” He says, “That’s right.”

On cost of prep:

“The filing and surveys were approximately $5,000 for the two maps. The report around $1,200 to $1,500.”

December 1966, Aspen dedicates new water filtration plant.

Aspen Mayor Robert (Bugsy) Barnard, right, at the Paragon bar in Aspen on Jan. 8, 1968, four years after he was elected to the Aspen City Council with Harald Pabst. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

May 5, 1967, Letter from Rae to Aspen’s city manager, Leon Wurl.

On May 5, 1967, Rea sent a letter to Leon Wurl about developing a feasibility study for the two reservoirs.

Rea first discussed setting up measuring devices “to measure the flows of Castle Creek and on Maroon Creek” and preparing a preliminary cost estimate “of rehabilitation of the Maroon Creek flume.”

“After the above work is accomplished, say during 1967, then we would recommend the preparation of an interim report during the 1967-68 winter season,” Rea said. “The purpose of this report would be to form the basis of a continuance with the District Court on the reservoir and pipeline decrees.”

The reference to “the basis of a continuance” is apparently to the expected diligence review that would be required for the proposed reservoirs.

“A final report could be performed only after geological studies and field surveys have been completed along with investigations for financing the project,” Rea wrote. “Geological studies could start in 1968 or 1969. The engineering cost of such a report should await discussions with the council on the actual scope of such a report.”

“The interim report would set forth problems that would have to be evaluated before construction could start on the dams,” Rea said. “The following is a partial list of items that would be covered in such a report:”

Rea then provided an outline of information that today still seems relevant, and at least in the available public record, seems to be still outstanding.

Water Rights

  1. City water rights including reservoirs
  2. Water rights in District. No. 38
  3. Water filings in District No. 38
  4. Adverse water rights and water calls
  5. Replacement storage
  6. Water management on Colorado River

Hydrologic Data

  1. Precipitation and runoff on Castle and Maroon creeks
  2. Stream flow on Castle and Maroon creeks
  3. Available data on stream flow in Frying Pan and Roaring Fork to relate to Castle and Maroon creeks.
  4. Flood studies.
  5. Sedimentation qualities

Geologic Data

  1. Collection of existing geologic data
  2. Preliminary report by consulting geologist
    1. Formation of limestone, sandstone, glacial and other permeable soils that may affect leakage, foundation, or construction.
    2. Deleterious minerals and salt deposits
    3. Ground water
    4. Materials for construction
  3. Drill holes and test pits


  1. Topographic surveys
  2. Survey maps for drill holes and test pits
  3. Right-of-ways and options
  4. High water traverse and crossections
  5. Map of borrow areas

Data for dams

  1. Drill holes for dam foundation and imperviousness
  2. Choice of materials for constructing dam
    1. Concrete
    2. Earth fill
    3. Rock fill and others
  3. Size and enlargements of dam
  4. Spillway
  5. Outlet headworks
  6. Final location of dam

Water Supply

  1. Service area
    1. Aspen
    2. Brush Creek
    3. Snowmass
  2. Requirements for above area
  3. Preliminary layout for above system
    1. Filter plants
    2. Reservoirs and pumping stations
    3. Pipelines and tunnels


  1. Population and projected growth
  2. Revenue from sale of water
  3. Tap fees
  4. Federal funds
  5. Bond issue

Cost Estimates

After the outline, Rea closed the letter with, “If you have any immediate questions, please call me, if not, I will discuss this with you when I am next in Aspen.”

May 15, 1967, Dale Rea apparently submits long-range water report. Per minutes.

Sheep being driven across the Castle Creek bridge from their summer range in the mountains in 1967. Sheep were grazed on the ski areas in Aspen and Snowmass until the early 1980s. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Jan. 9, 1968, letter to Rae from engineering firm on geologic studies.

The letter sent to Rae was a proposal for geological investigations of the dams. Unclear if it was acted on.

Jan. 9, 1968, letter to Rae from a second engineering firm on mapping

The letter from Merrick and Co. to Rea said, “In accordance with your telephone request today we are submitting the following quotation for mapping two areas in the Aspen, Colorado area.” [The two areas were the Maroon and Castle creek dam sites. The work was to include aerial photography, but it’s not clear it was ever undertaken.]

Jan. 12, 1968, letter from Rea to Aspen’s city manager, Leon Wurl

Rea presents costs for “engineering, aerial and geological work in the eight items of our letter and outline of May 5, 1967.”

“The report as presented should firm-up the location, capacity and cost of the two reservoirs. It will also show how much water is needed, where it will be used and the cost of treating and transmitting the water to the areas of use. Methods of financing the total construction costs will be also presented.” The costs ranged from $5,000 to $8,000.

Jan. 30, 1968, letter from Rae to Wurl

Rea sent a nearly identical letter, with a revised bottom line cost of $9,094 for the work described in the Jan. 12 letter.

March 28, 1968, map filed with state engineer for Sam’s Knob Reservoir by Snowmass-At-Aspen for 57-foot dam on Snowmass Creek holding 565 AF at a cost of $125,000.

May, 1968, Ruedi Reservoir begins to store water. The cost of construction was $24.8 million.

July 15, 1968, Aspen City Council informed about how their water “calls for 2 dams”

Minutes, discussion of city’s new filter plant, and then, “Administrator Wurl pointed out Dale Rea’s overall plan calls for two dams, one up Maroon Creek and one up Castle Creek for the storage of water. The city limited at the present land-wise.”

November 1968, report from Rea on “stream gaging, hydrology and water supply”

“The purpose of this preliminary report is to collect data that will supplement the water filings made with the state engineer in December, 1965 for reservoirs on Castle and Maroon Creek.”

“This report is limited to stream gaging, hydrology and water supply because they offer a good beginning that is highly desirable and lays the foundation for collection of further needed data in order to adequately design the two dams.”

The diversion dam was built in 1964 and tied to a 36-inch pipe delivering water to the filter plant.

On sedimentation concerns:

“In general both reservoirs will be located in deep canyons, long and narrow in dimension, with fairly steep walls.”

“It is concluded that sedimentation will be a minor problem in the two reservoirs.”

On Aspen’s future:

“There is little doubt that Aspen is the “Ski Center” of the world. Snowmass-at-Aspen has assured a continued growth within its areas, as well as the intervening area. In addition to its winter activity; great cultural activities in Aspen are bringing many people from all over the country during the summer.”

On population:

Report showed projected population of 3,875 in Aspen based on new subdivisions and said “it should be reached by the end of 1970.”

“In December of 1964, the author prepared a report on Water Supply for the City of Aspen, wherein he stated that the estimated population of the Aspen Area, bounded approximately as described above, as 30,000 people by 1990.”

On flows in the combined creeks: from a low of 34,650 AF to a high of 97,950 AF. Combined storage in reservoirs: 14,629 AF.

January 21, 1969, Rollie Fischer of the River District mentions Aspen’s interest in Ashcroft Reservoir in his January 1969 quarterly report.

“The City Manager of Aspen has expressed an interest in discussing the
possibility of working with this District on the proposed Ashcroft Reservoir on Castle Creek as a potential source of future water for the City and its surrounding area. Aspen also has a claim for a reservoir on Castle Creek, which is junior to the District’s Ashcroft Reservoir.”

Feb. 19, 1969, map filed with state by Top of Aspen Inc. for Hunter Creek Reservoir, which includes a 23-foot-tall-dam holding 247.5 AF on Hunter Creek at a cost of $150,000.

March 3, 1969, letter from Rae to Wurl, reflecting possibility that BuRec and CWCB were considering working together on the Castle Creek Reservoir.

Rate first thanks Wurl for his letter of Feb. 20, 1968.

“I will first analyze the report proposals for the two earth storage dams, disregarding, for the time being, any joint effort with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado River Conservation Board.”

Rae submitted a detailed budget for a preliminary report – Phase 1 on the dams. He was to look at eight items, including water rights, stream gaging and hydraulic history, geological data, aerial survey and mapping, data on reservoir and dam, water supply with map and report, construction costs and financing.

“We would recommend the entire preliminary report be started in 1969 and completed in 1969 or 1970.”

Under the heading “Final Report – Phase II” he wrote “This final report may be completed on both dams at the same time or at separate times. There will be some savings in field investigations if the two dams are investigated at the same time. Should the Castle Creek Dam look like a joint project, it could be delayed until sometime after the work is completed on the Maroon Creek project.”

“For the purpose of a Capital Improvement Program, we would recommend that $22,500 be set up for 1971 and $22,500 in 1972 to cover pre-design information on the two dams. This can always be deferred if financially necessary, provided the attorney feels that the criteria of ‘due diligence’ has been met. Actually you will not need both dams within the same 10 year period unless provisions are made to lease the water save on continually escalating construction costs.”

May 12, 1969, Rollie Fischer of Colorado River District meets with Aspen and Reclamation officials.

Per expense account records: “Drove to Aspen and returned. Met with City of Aspen officials and Bureau of Reclamation Officials: re Ashcroft Reservoir.”

May 23, 1969, Fischer of River District meets again with Aspen and Reclamation officials

Per expense account records: “Met with Aspen and Bureau of Reclamation personnel re: M&I (municipal and industrial water supply). Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley.”

Fischer would elaborate slightly on both meetings in his July 24, 1969 report to the River District board, under the heading “City of Aspen.”

“On May 12 counsel and I met with City of Aspen and Bureau of Reclamation personnel for preliminary discussion of future municipal-industrial water supplies for the Roaring Fork Valley. I met with them again on May 23. The Bureau of Reclamation will include Roaring Fork Valley M&I water supplies and requirements as part of the Basalt Project study.”

Sept. 9, 1969, Aspen P&Z meeting on water and “storage dams”

Minutes: “Water – map of future plans was shown and explained by Mr. Wurl. Program provides for studies in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972 for preliminary work on storage dams on Castle and Maroon Creek. Proposed additional filter plant near the Art Pfister property. Schedule may have to be altered in order to protect the city’s water rights.”

1970, Aspen population: 2,437

People in the crowd during the 1970 Winterskol parade in Aspen. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, is enacted.

April 1, 1970, CWCB board meeting, BuRec says Castle Creek Reservoir has been substituted for Ashcroft Reservoir

Per minutes, D.L. Crandall of Reg. 4, BuRec, speaks to board about status of various projects:

“In our feasibility studies we have first the Basalt Project. There is a correction on the report here under the ‘a’ item. Robie tells me that at the Ashcroft site there has been a substitute for it. It will be changed in the specifics of that project plan. The new site is called Castle Creek. Our report is scheduled for completion a year from this December on Basalt. This, of course, relates to the yield at Ruedi Reservoir and some other complex questions.”

May 11, 1970, Aspen City Council

Minutes: under heading, “Reservoir – Castle Creek – Ashcroft”: “Mr. Fischer, Secretary Engineer of the Colorado Water Conservation District was present to discuss with council their cooperation with the council on the reservoir for Castle Creek or the Ashcroft area.

“Mr. Fischer submitted to council a map showing the district in which Aspen is located. Mr. Fischer gave the background and responsibilities of the Water Conservation District and discussed those items that the city and board co-operate on, i.e., proposed dam on Castle Creek. The status of which the Bureau of Reclamation is presently doing preliminary studies as the proposed location of the dam.”

Also, at same meeting, under heading of “water rights”: “Councilman Comcowich reported Dale Rea, City Water Engineer, was in town this date and recommend (sic) the city concentrate on Hunter and Maroon Creek and not do too much on Castle Creek until the Ashcroft Dam is settled. On Maroon Creek, Mr. Rea will be submitting four alternatives and suggest the city seriously consider the 4th alternative. Upon written report, the city should survey and provide for bonding in the following year.”

August 1970, Work underway on the Hunter Creek Tunnel as part of the Fry-Ark project

Oct. 5, 1970, Colorado River District’s Rollie Fischer visits Castle Creek dam site while Reclamation drills test holes

The following is from Fischer’s quarterly report to the River District board of directors dated Oct. 10, 1970, under the heading of “Basalt Project.”

The Basalt Project included piping water from Ruedi Reservoir to irrigate lands on Missouri Heights, near Carbondale, and in the Four Mile Creek drainage. For planning purposes, the potential Ashcroft Reservoir had been grouped into the Basalt Project in the wake of Fry-Ark approvals, although it was physically completely separate from the Basalt Project.

“Municipal and industrial water supplies for Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley may be included in the Basalt Project. As part of the potential M & I (municipal and industrial) supply the Bureau of Reclamation has been taking cores at Aspen’s proposed Castle Creek Reservoir site. Oct. 5th I visited the site of the coring work with a Bureau of Reclamation geologist. The first cores indicate that valley alluvium is approximately 142 feet deep and the dam site is in a fault zone.”

Oct. 28, 1970, letter from Rea to BuRec

“On several occasions I have had discussions with Mr. Leon A. Wurl, City Manager, Aspen, Colorado concerning any progress you have made with respect to Aspen’s proposed dam on Castle Creek. We understand you did test drill our proposed dam site but have no further information. If you have made any progress at all in this matter, I would appreciate hearing from you, along with a copy to Mr. Wurl.”

Nov. 4, 1970, letter from BuRec to Rea

Letter from J.W. Robins, project manager at BuRec’s Grand Junction Projects Office – Region 4:

“This letter is in response to your inquiry of Oct. 28, 1970 regarding the status of our work at the Castle Creek Damsite. The dam axis we are considering is located about 1,400 feet upstream from the one originally contemplated. The purpose of this change is to place the dam embankment so as to reduce seepage loss through the alluvial fan on the right embankment.

“Our drill crew is presently working on a program of five test holes; to date two holes have been completed. The first hole was located adjacent to the creek channel and found 142 feet of pervious sand and gravel over bedrock of aplite, an igneous intrusive rock. The second hole was drilled on the alluvial fan on the east side of the creek and found 115 feet of overburden over aplite.

“Work is now beginning on a test hole on the right (east) abutment. Other items of work which we have completed at the site include plane table surveys of topography of the damsite and the digging of five test pits to explore for earth materials for dam embankment.

“The rather deep deposit of pervious sand and gravel at this site will present a special design problem to minimize seepage loss. If we can provide further information, please let us know.”

The letter was cc’d to Wurl at the city.

A skier riding up Lift One on April 11, 1971 (Easter Sunday), the last day for Lift One before it was replaced by Lift 1A. Truly, the end on an era and a turning point from old Aspen to new Aspen. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

May 7, 1971, letter from Wurl to Rea regarding seepage concerns

“It was suggested by the Bureau of Reclamation that perhaps we obtain a cost estimate from a private concern to determine the estimated amount of seepage that would be lost in the bottom of the dam.”

May 11, 1971, letter to Aspen’s Leon Wurl from BuRec

From J.W. Robins, project manager, with copy to Roland Fischer at the River District:

“ … you requested additional information concerning the feasibility and cost of performing additional geologic studies and permeability tests of the foundation of the Castle Creek (Sandy) Reservoir site.

“As explained as this meeting the Bureau drilled three deep holes at the Castle Creek site during the fall and early winter of last year.

“The first hole … was located adjacent to the present channel of Castle Creek to determine the depth to bedrock and the character of the overburden. The hole found 142 feet of pervious sand and gravel over bedrock. The bedrock was also quite broken and believed to represent a possibly dangerous fault zone.

“The second hole … was drilled on the alluvial fan near the base of the right abutment and found 125 feet of sand, gravel, and cobbles over bedrock. Percolations tests showed this material to be unacceptably pervious.

“Although the exact quantity of water that would be lost through this material if a dam were to be constructed at this site without a cutoff trench would be impossible to estimate without detailed tests, the results of the percolation tests we performed indicate the seepage losses would be excessive to acceptable standards for Reclamation design as the resulting piping may dangerously weaken the foundation of the dam.”

“The third hole … was located at about dam crest elevation on the right abutment. Igneous rock was found but the rock was badly broken to a depth of 142 feet where drilling was stopped. Percolation tests in this hole also showed the rock to be very pervious and an expensive grouting program would be necessary to properly seal this foundation material.”

“The fourth hole … planned on the left abutment, was not drilled because of the unsatisfactory geological conditions encountered at the other three holes.”

“The results of this drilling indicate that an excessive amount of seepage loss could be expected through the sand and gravel in the canyon bottom unless a cutoff trench or some type of special treatment was performed. The great depth (as much as 142 feet) and the distance of about 900 feet across the bottom area would make such treatment unjustifiably expensive.”

Talked about drilling more holes and wells to further test for permeability, but said … “Because of the poor conditions found at the three exploratory holes drilled by the Bureau, we do not believe this additional work would be a wise investment for the district or the city of Aspen.”

Leon Wurl, Aspen city manager, at center with shovels, on May 21, 1971, with Eve Homeyer, a member of the Aspen City Council, to his left. Buttermilk Mountain is behind them. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Aug. 31, 1971, Aspen P&Z meeting, city manager emphasizes protection of water rights

Per minutes: “City manager Wurl emphasized to the commission how important it is for the city to protect their existing water rights and to obtain additional water rights, especially on the Roaring Fork River. A large portion of the rights on the Roaring Fork are owned by the Salvation Ditch people and they have received offers for their rights.” Also, “Discussed bringing the water from the eastern slope back to the western slope.”

Sept. 24, 1971, Rollie Fischer, director of the River District, writes a letter to Bil Dunaway, editor and publisher of The Aspen Times.

“From time to time I have visited with various groups in Aspen and Pitkin County and discussed water and water problems. We are cooperating not only With the City of Aspen concerning future water needs, but also with water user organizations in the Roaring Fork Valley. Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley need storage.”

Nov. 5, 1971, State awards conditional water rights for Castle and Maroon in Civil Action 5884.

Maroon Creek: Civil Action No. W-5884, Priority 806

Castle Creek: Civil Action No. W-5884, Priority 805

Both rights are for industrial, irrigation, domestic, municipal and other beneficial uses, both consumptive and nonconsumptive …

The reservoirs are granted the right to fill “and to keep said reservoir reasonably well filled. Provided, however, that the storage of water in said reservoir in any one year in an amount in excess of 4,567 acre-feet shall be on the condition that such excess storage is not to interfere with prior vested rights.”

“And provided further that the priority right hereby awarded said Maroon Creek Reservoir is granted on the condition that the dam and other structures necessary to store water in said reservoir shall be completed and that the water stored in said reservoir shall be applied to beneficial use with due diligence and within a reasonable length of time.”

April 27, 1972, Aspen meets with BuRec on Castle Creek

Letter from Wurl to Rea, on April 15, inviting Rea to meet in Aspen with BuRec officials.

May 31, 1972, Aspen files first due diligence report, prepared by Delaney and Balcomb, with water court on Castle and Maroon reservoirs. Cited the following:

“Geologic core drilling on Castle Creek dam site in November of 1970.”

“Entered into a contract with the USGS to expend the sum of $2,550.00 during the period July 1, 1971 to June 30, 1972 for weather and stream flow data.”

“Expended the sum of $12,534.86 on maintenance and improvement of the Aspen Water System, of which the two above structures are a proposed unit.”

“Expended sums for engineering consultation work with Dale Rea, consulting engineer, on the planning and utilization of the above structures in the Aspen Water System.”

July 22, 1972, Aspen P&Z, has a “study session to discuss with city manager water line extensions.

Minutes: “Map of the ultimate area to be served by the water system was shown to the commission. (Same area as shown in 1966.) Manager Wurl stated the main objective is to utilize all the city’s water rights so that they can be retained.”

Discussed extension to Barnard property.

“Basic opinion that will be received as relates to water rights is, unless you put the water to beneficial use, you lose the rights.”

“City presently has 100 cubic feet on Castle; 65 cubic feet on Maroon; 15 cubic feet on Hunter and 6 second feet on the Roaring Fork River.”

“City has geared their water program based on the following criteria: (1) being ready to serve what expansion comes; (2) maintaining the water rights that we have.”

“Question was raised as to what is the bare minimum of performance required to hold water rights. Manager Wurl pointed out a master plan works for awhile, but then the courts have to see that plan being implemented. There is no basic criteria but the water must be put to beneficial use.”

Aug. 17, 1972, Aspen P&Z, special meeting about water rights

Minutes: “Meeting called to discuss with Mr. Dale Rea, water engineer consultant, and attorney Kenneth Balcomb water line extensions and their relationship to water rights.

“Dale Rea reported in determining the size of water lines and where lines should be constructed, the first criteria to be considered is the overall master plan for the area. The water master plan is prepared by utilization of all water rights as a guideline.”

“Presently using 5 million gallons a day, filter plant is designed for 8 million.”

“Demands for water are impossible to keep up with. Aspen invested a considerable amount of money already to go as far as 16,000,000 gallons a day. 16,000,000 gallons a day is 25 second feet of water. Water master plan map is prepared to take care of 168.5 second feet of water rights which is what the city needs to preserve.”

“Question was asked Mr. Balcomb what are the implications of a community to preserve its water rights. Mr. Balcomb stated to show a need, i.e., planners projections. Reservoirs play a very important part in preserving water rights. Denver has planned to the year 2010 to protect their water rights. Sewage has to be planned at the same time as planning for water. General law says that if you haven’t done anything within 10 years, you have abandoned your water rights.”

Balcomb also said: “Water will not not control growth, people are going to come anyway. The city’s job is to plan for them. City will never dry up Castle or Maroon Creeks. Do need off stream storage for Castle and Maroon. Store the water rights and then when the river becomes low, use the water to balance the river. Eventually if the city does not use the water cannot show a use, the state engineer will say put it back in the river and it would go up for grabs.”

Oct. 16, 1972, Aspen City Council, Rae gets another contract with the city.

Nov. 27, 1972, Aspen City Council, Rae has taken on associate, amends contract.

March 15, 1973, Diligence awarded, for the first time, in case W-79.

March 5, 1974, Aspen P&Z, “no way we could justify using all the water rights”

Minutes: Aspen engineer “Ellis stated presently, raw water rights far exceed the amount of growth that would conceivably take place for many years. Stated that in order to prove due diligence under the existing state water right laws, must show due diligence, which would mean reservoirs, raw water pipelines, etc. … Stated there is no way we could justify using all the water rights within this service area, or probably even within the areas enclosed by the dotted lines on the map. … Stated we could service far in excess of what is shown.”

On growth projects, “Ellis stated by 1985, it is a projection of between 26 and 28 thousand. That would be within the solid line on the map.”

Feb 26, 1975, letter from Cassens to Musick on flows in Castle and Maroon creeks.

“These tables show that although there is sufficient direct flow in both Maroon Creek and Castle Creek for the projected 1993 population, the remaining flow is often reduced below 10 cfs and in some cases on Maroon Creek is less than 1 cfs. These very low flows may not be enough to keep the streams ‘live.’”

Summer 1975, Work set to be completed on Hunter Creek Tunnel diverting Hunter, Midway and No Name creeks as part of the Fry-Ark project.

Sept. 21, 1976, letter from city engineer after discovering error on Castle Creek mapping location.

Dave Ellis, city engineer, writes to Richard Cassen of Cassens and Associates, Inc..

“Recently in trying to locate the proposed Castle Creek Reservoir site I had occasion to use the plats which were filed with the original claim. As a result I discovered that the survey ties to Hayden and Highland Peaks as shown on the plat for the damsite are erroneous and when actually plotted on the USGS top sheets place the damsite some 6500 feet northeast of the proposed locations.”

Ellis also wrote, “I would guess that the ties were made in the field by personnel unfamiliar with the surrounding terrain and that they incorrectly identified these two peaks. I think it is clear where the reservoir site is intended but I wanted to bring the matter to yoru attention.”

Jan. 10, 1977, resolution approved by City of Aspen and Pitkin County opposing completion of the Hunter Creek Tunnel, a component of the Fry-Ark Project that today diverts water from Hunter, Midway and No Name creeks.

The resolution was signed by Aspen Mayor Stacy Standley and chair of the PitCo BOCC chair Joe Edwards. It opens with the following:

“The Bureau of Reclamation Fryingpan-Arkansas Project (Hunter Creek Portion) will directly effect the proposed Hunter Creek wilderness area, the minimum flows of Hunter, No Name and Midway Creeks, and the Western Slope in general by (1), limiting the water supply for native fish and wildlife, (2) destroying wilderness and scenic values, (3) curtailing the supply of irrigation water, (4) increasing salinity in the Colorado River Basin, and (5) reducing the potential for public recreation activities (namely rafting, kayaking, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting).”

Then it says:

“Now, therefore, be it resolved by the City of Aspen, and Board of County Commissioners of Pitkin County, Colorado: 1. That it does hereby request the Congress of the United States to place a moratorium on all construction of and appropriations for the Hunter Creek Portion of the Fry-Ark Project unless and until the following actions have been taken … ”

It then lists five reviews and planning exercises they city and the county desired to see completed.

Jan. 19, 1977, letter from Richard Cassens to Aspen’s Dave Ellis, the city engineer.

Cassens is president of Rea, Cassens and Associates Inc., of Englewood. The firm was still serving the city at least until the 1990s. Firm was dissolved in 1999.

The filing number for Castle Creek Reservoir is 22737, for Maroon Creek it is 22738.

The letter confirms that the measurements for the Castle Reservoir as they related to Hayden Peak and Highland Peak are in error.

The letter also notes, “We will be preparing a listing of work done of the two reservoirs during the past four years for Lee Leavenworth in accordance with the hearing on diligence.”

The letter is cc’d to Jim Markalunas, John Musick and Lee Leavenworth.

Feb. 28, 1977, city files “application to clarify legal description,” via Vranesh and Musick, to correct physical coordinates for Castle Creek Reservoir. Apparently serves as diligence filing.

A photo from a protest held against the Hunter Creek aspect of the Fry-Ark Project, as published in the March 24 edition of The Aspen Times. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Sept. 22, 1977, City and county seek to take over the Snowmass Project from the River District

Letter from Lee Leavenworth of Vranesh and Musick, writing on behalf of the city of Aspen and Pitkin County to the Colorado River District regarding the Snowmass Project.

The city and the county were seeking to take over the project, which included two large dams, from the River District.

“It is readily apparent that the City of Aspen and Pitkin County are the logical entities to pursue the development of the Snowmass Project. Although current public opinion is not supportive of the Project, the elected officials and administrative staff of the city and county desire to insure that the future needs of the area will be met. Both the city and the county recognize their obligations to future citizens and the need to plan for the future.”

Nov. 7, 1977, Diligence awarded, for second time, in W-791-77.

The city of Aspen’s back-up Hunter Creek water treatment plant, as featured in The Aspen Times, in 1978. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

Nov. 6, 1979, Water management plan

Prepared under City Manager Wayne Chapman, with Jim Markalunas, Rea Cassens and Associates and John Musick.

Under subheading “Maroon and Castle Creek reservoir:”

“The reservoirs are the final step to be implemented in the upgrading of the entire Aspen water supply system, to ensure reliability of water quality and quantity during successive drought years.”

Under, “Snowmass Project:”

“The city also has available to it, three of four components of the Snowmass Project, located on Snowmass Creek and the Roaring Fork River. As discussed below, these rights have been declared abandoned, but are currently on appeal.”

July 9, 1979, River District stripped by the court of its conditional rights to Ashcroft Reservoir and for the features of the Snowmass Project, per ruling.

And, from the Brown report, Attorney Balcomb updates the board on the decision by Judge Lohr, who cancelled the rights to the Ashcroft Reservoir and the Snowmass Project “for lack of diligence”.

“We do not consider the cancellation of Ashcroft Reservoir to be of any significance since the drilling of the damsite disclosed a total lack of foundation suitable for a dam.”

The Aspen Highlands ski patrol, about 1980, ski-packing under the Loge Peak lift. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

1980, Aspen population: 3,678

1980, Aspen voters approve a $9 million capital improvement program for water system, including water tanks on side of Little Nell ski trail.

1980, Water management plan prepared for Aspen, apparently by staff with help of Markalunas, Musick and Cassen.

Under heading, “Hydroelectric power generation:

“The investigation of the feasibility of hydroelectric power generation in conjunction with development of the Maroon, Castle, Hunter Creek Reservoirs and the Snowmass Project has been ongoing, the report says, citing a study from Merrick and Co. called “Feasibility Study – Hydroelectric Generation, Aspen, CO, April, 1974.

Under heading, “water rights,” the plan states that “conditional rights are granted by the courts for large scale projects requiring years for planning and construction, to assure that the water interests will be available when the project is completed to permit diversion for the beneficial use.

On Maroon and Castle reservoirs:

“The application for quadrennial finding of reasonable diligence is due in February, 1981, for the City’s conditional water rights for the Castle Creek Reservoir and the Maroon Creek Reservoir. The City must insure that these conditional water rights are maintained until such time as they are made absolute.

On the Snowmass Project:

“Appeal suits have been filed with the Colorado Supreme Court to reverse lower court decisions which declared four conditional water rights encompassing the Snowmass Project, a hydroelectric and pumped storage project on Snowmass Creek and the Roaring Fork River, to be abandoned for lack of due diligence by the Colorado River Water Conservation District. These rights had been assigned to Pitkin County and the City of Aspen prior to the abandonment ruling.

Under, “recommendations:

“This in-depth study of the water utility system has given a new appreciation for a City service which has been provided day-in and day-out without interruptions, its reliability most attributable to the careful planning and consistent attention of James J. Markalunas, the department director, and our consultants, John D. Musick, Jr., and Richard H. Cassens. Their pleas for immediate attention to a system which is rapidly being outgrown have been largely ignored.

July 7, 1980, City of Aspen water management plan

Feb. 27, 1981, due diligence filing from City of Aspen for Maroon and Castle creek reservoirs.

Cites work on diversion dams on lower Castle and Maroon creeks, the city’s treatment plant, a comprehensive water management plan, and improvements to the “whole system.”

Statements of opposition filed, then withdrawn, by Southeastern, Walter P. Paepcke Life Insurance Trust, Arthur O. Pfister, Joseph T. Zoline, Louise D. Deane, Wyrick G. Deane and Duane H. Deane.

Local objectors: “Objectors are informed and believed … that the applicant has not done such work on the (reservoirs) to enable applicant to be entitled to a determination of reasonable diligence …

Southeastern withdrew, but it was “conditioned upon the agreement of Aspen and Pitkin County to the presently proposed Ruling of Referee in the Application for Water Rights of Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, 80CW267 …

Feb. 8, 1982, Supreme Court rules on appeal of denial of Ashcroft and Snowmass Project.

The city of Aspen was a party to the suit because it had asked the River District to take over diligence of the Snowmass Project. However, the River District still held the water rights. The opinion referred directly to the Snowmass Project but not Ashcroft, although it covered it. The period of time under review was May 1, 1972, through April 20, 1978.

“ … at the trial, extensive evidence was presented by the river district and other appellants in support of claims that reasonable diligence had been exercised during this period

“Much of the evidence related to litigation, political activities, and other efforts to protect the conditional water rights and to promote the projects. None of the evidence or exhibits was sufficient to establish that any on-site work or other activity specifically related to any individual project was performed during the diligence period.”

“ … the water court held that some evidence of effort to develop each conditional water right individually was necessary to support a finding of diligence.”

The court said the diligence law “is to prevent the accumulation of conditional water rights without diligent efforts to complete the projects to the detriment of those needing and seeking to make immediate beneficial use of the same water.”

The opinion then cited a 1973 case at Orchard Mesa. “We specified that a finding of diligence requires the applicant to prove ‘An intention to use the water, coupled with concrete action amounting to diligent efforts to finalize the intended appropriation … A record which shows only a hope someday to use the water but with prior years of inaction will not support the claim.”

Finds diligence requires “the most expedient and efficient manner possible under the circumstances.”

Then it cites the water court ruling, which said, “There was no evidence of any activity directed specifically toward development of the Snowmass Project during the diligence period.”

Oct. 29, 1982, diligence awarded, for third time, in case 81CW063.

Feb. 25, 1983, water management plan by Musick and Cope, updating a July 7, 1980, water plan.

The plan is labeled as draft and as a preliminary update, but that’s a consistent labeling convention throughout the city’s water plans.

The city’s No. 1 cited priority was to develop the maximum utilization of all city-owned water rights.” The report includes an informative review of the city’s water rights portfolio at the time.

The report also directly addresses Maroon and Castle creek reservoirs.

Under the heading of raw water storage and the subheading of Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir

The Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir were conditionally decreed in 1971 for 4,567 acre-feet and 9,062 acre-feet respectively. The timing for the construction of these facilities shall be contingent upon the rate of growth of the service areas and upon the needs of treatment and distribution facilities.

The reservoirs are the final step to be implemented in the upgrading of the entire Aspen water supply system, to ensure reliability of water quality and quantity during successive drought years. These reservoirs are also instrumental to the implementation of city policy providing for stream flow and aesthetic protection.

Utility system capability shall be such that either or both reservoirs may be constructed or filled without reducing available dry year peak period supplies to the entire city.

On investigating the reservoirs:

The city manager shall seek proposals from engineers specializing in the fields of engineering, geology, and hydrology to determine the supply available to each reservoir, for the purpose of determining how to best design, schedule, and utilize existing system and new system development, as well as to determine optimum reservoir construction.

Such proposals shall include the consideration of proper dam and reservoir area construction to minimize environmental hazards and impacts and to prevent deterioration of water quality and quantity in Maroon Creek and Castle Creek during construction and reservoir filling.

The water department shall determine what system development prerequisites are necessary prior to commencement of reservoir construction or filling.

Studies shall be undertaken to determine the possible use of these reservoirs for hydroelectric power generation, recreation, augmentation, lease, and exchange.

Under the heading of Conditional Water Rights,” and the subhead of Castle Creek Reservoir and Maroon Creek Reservoir:

As discussed earlier, development of these reservoirs represents the final step in the overall system development and is vitally necessary in order to ensure a reliable water supply in successive drought years.

To pursue the development of these water rights and the application of water to a beneficial use, city staff shall continue to develop data as to design, hydrology, and engineering to determine optimum reservoir construction.

An application for quadrennial finding of reasonable diligence is due in February 1981. The city shall ensure that these conditional water rights are maintained until such time as they are made absolute.

Under the sub-heading, “Snowmass Project:

In 1977, the city of Aspen and Pitkin County were jointly assigned from the Colorado River Water Conservation District (CRWCD) three of the four conditional water rights encompassing the Snowmass Project, a hydroelectric and multi-purpose storage project with components located on Snowmass Creek and the Roaring Fork River.

The water rights decreed to the Snowmass Project are:

a. Paepcke Forebay

b. Gerbaz Conduit

c. Pabst Reservoir

d. Pabst Power Conduit (reserved by CRWCD in conditional assignment)

A failure by the CRWCD to include the power component water right reserved in the assignment (the Pabst Power Conduit) in an earlier application for quadrennial diligence resulted in this water right being canceled by the Water Court, in a decision upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court.”

The remaining three conditional water rights assigned to the city and the county were recently canceled by the Water Court due to a failure by the CRWCD to develop the rights with reasonable diligence during the period May 1972 to April 1976. This period was prior to the conditional assignment of these rights to Aspen and Pitkin County. The Water Court’s ruling is presently before the Colorado Supreme Court on appeal.”

Under the heading Proposed construction, 1980 to 1990,” the Maroon and Castle creek reservoirs are not included.

This map from 1984 is one of the few ever published that puts the Maroon and Castle creek reservoirs into the context of the city’s overall water system. Credit: Source: City of Aspen

May 1984, water plan by Sheaffer and Roland

This report includes one of the few maps in any study that puts the two reservoirs in the context of the system’s overall water supply system.

From the cover letter:

“The report is a comprehensive study of the options available to Aspen for meeting its long term water supply needs. The report examines conditions which can be expected by the year 2005.”

“Future shortages will be experienced in raw water irrigation and minimum streamflows. The potable water needs, however, can be met on a daily basis even during a repeat of the dry year conditions of 1977-78.”

Under “conclusions”:

Point 1:

“Aspen, with the exception of a few moderate capacity wells, is totally dependent upon surface streamflows for its raw water supplies. Since these flows are highly variable and since there is no significant raw water storage in the Aspen system, Aspen will be subject to significant raw water shortages in future years under extreme dry year conditions. These shortages will be limited to minimum streamflows and raw water irrigation.”

Point 12:

“Additional measures can be implemented to reduce the expected future shortages. These measures fall into the three general categories of: l) improvements to the existing infrastructure; 2) purchase of additional water rights; and 3) construction of raw water storage on Maroon and Castle Creeks.”

Under “recommendations:”

Point 7. “Authorize the preparation of an application to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Bureau of Reclamation for the funding of feasibility studies for the Maroon and Castle Creek Reservoirs. These studies should take a basin-wide approach to integrate the reservoirs into a comprehensive water management  program to reduce system demands and to construct revenue producing facilities. Other sites including those on the mainstem of the Roaring Fork River should be included in this study.”

“A comprehensive environmental assessment, including the “no action” alternative, will be an important part of these studies. The cost of these  studies is estimated to be about $110,000 and could be completed within about nine months of authorization to proceed.”

“The potential Colorado Water Conservation Board share of these costs would be about $40,000. The Bureau of Reclamation could also share in these costs. The Authorizing Act and Operating Principles of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project require the Bureau of Reclamation to prepare a feasibility study on a reservoir up to 5,000 acre feet in order to offset adverse streamflow conditions in the Roaring Fork River above Aspen.”

Under “Raw water storage”

“Aspen currently holds two major decrees for water storage on Castle Creek (9,062 AF) and Maroon Creek (4,567 AF). Although these rights are relatively junior, water should be available for storage during the spring runoff periods even in dry years. These reservoirs should be developed as a part of a comprehensive plan designed for the purposes of water supply, hydropower, stream flow enhancement, and lake recreation.”

“Releases from storage coud be used to meet the shortages on Maroon and Castle Creeks both in the winter and summer months. It is one of the few options available for water supply that can meet shortages on a year around basis.”

“The hydropower could be generated from releases at the new reservoir sites, spillages at the existing diversion dams, and by diversions into the Maroon and Castle Creek pipelines for in-line pipeline hydropower. If desirable, releases could also be used to sustain mimimum streamflows during dry periods.

“The environmental advantages of such a release program would be countered by the environmental disadvantages of declining lake levels and exposed shorelines in an area adjacent to the Maroon Bells Wilderness area.”

The report then addresses hydropower production:

“The firm annual yields of the two reservoirs are estimated to be approximately 1,800 acre feet for the Maroon Creek Reservoir and 3,100 acre feet for the Castle Creek Reservoir.”

“The unit costs for firm annual water yield are $6,300 and $7,300 per acre foot per year for the Maroon and Castle Creek Reservoirs, respectively”

“Because the reservoirs are among the most expensive water supply alternatives, they may not be economically feasible unless developed as a multiple-use project including hydropower and lake recreation.”

“A detailed feasibility study could optimize the sizes and locations for these facilities and reduce their unit costs. Because each of the project elements would be interdependent, a basin-wide approach would be necessary.”

On hydro revenue:

“These facilities will be paid for by revenues from the hydropower facilities and user charges from the Aspen water service area. The hydropower revenues (using 1984 rates of $.04 per killowatt hour) will be approximately $534,000 per year. This stream of revenues will retire about one sixth of the debt for constructing the two basin-wide systems.”

The report estimates the construction costs of the Maroon Creek dam at $11,417,000 and the Castle Creek dam at $22,655,000.

March 11, 1985, city files due diligence application, cites:

Completion of a “raw water supply update,” began work on expansion of treatment plant, garnered agreements to work on Maroon Creek diversion dam and pipeline, rehabilitated said dam, worked on FERC application for Maroon Creek hydro plant.

Of special note:

“As a part of this update, applicant prepared, but has not yet filed, an application to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for funding the construction of the two reservoirs, conducted a site investigation with CWCB staff members, and drafted a pre-feasibility study.”

July 17, 1985, city awarded, for fourth time, due diligence, in case 85CW045.

Oct. 4, 1985, Aspen opens expanded water treatment plant.

A windsufer on Ruedi Reservoir in September, 1980. Credit: Aspen Historical Society

November 17, 1987, letter from Aspen engineer to Rea, Cassens and Assoc., which asks about canoeing and sail boarding on Maroon Creek Reservoir.

“Regarding planning issues in Castle Creek valley especially, but also for reference for Maroon Creek valley, could you please reassess for us at this time the elements of the May, 1984 ‘Raw water Supply Update’ dealing with raw water storage reservoirs on those two creeks?”

“More specifically, given the growth which has actually transpired since 1984 as compared with projections, and given any necessary reassessments of future population projections, all together with actual and projected City water system growth, cou1d you please comment on the current evaluation of needs and dates for raw water storage in the two valleys?”

“It would appear to me that it might benefit the City most to try to develop a facility on Maroon Creek which could perhaps triple of quadruple production and revenues associated with the Maroon Creek Hydropower Project, if we are permitted that use.”

“It also might he beneficial to be able to provide a source of non-motorized water craft recreation. With Maroon Lake barred from any flotation devices, the nearest place where one can canoe or sail board is Ruedi. Would this use be permitted on a municipal raw water storage reservoir?”

May 8, 1989, City files due diligence application

Cites: Expansion of treatment plant, Highlands “treated water reservoir,” received FERC permit for Maroon Creek hydro and began to build it, extended municipal service area.

August 29, 1989, City awarded, for fifth time, due diligence in case 89CW030

1990, Aspen population: 5,049

1990, Comprehensive Water Management Plan of the City of Aspen, labeled “1990 update” and, as usual, “draft”

The plan was prepared by Carol O’Down, city manager, Bob Gish, public works director, Larry Ballenger, director of water treatment and supply, Amy Margarum, city and county planning director, Cindy Sheaffer, finance director and Tom Dunlop, environmental health officer, in conjunction with Rea, Cassens and Associates, and the law firm of Musick and Cope.

“From 1965 to 1974 few improvements were made to the water system other than some minor pipeline extensions.”

“The development of the Water Management Plan during the period 1976-1980 was based upon a number of goals adopted by the city council.”

The number one goal was “development of maximum utilization of city owned water rights.”

“Phase 3,” of the 1980 water plan, “was to construct raw water storage reservoirs on Castle Creek and Maroon Creek for which the City has held conditional water rights for the past 25 years … ”

“With the exception of a few moderate capacity wells, the City is totally dependent upon surface streamflows for its raw water supplies. Since these flows are highly variable and since there is no significant raw water storage in the system, the city will be subject to significant raw water shortages in future years under extreme dry year conditions.”

“Additional measures can be implemented to reduce the expected future shortages. These measures are improvements to the existing infrastructure, purchase of additional water rights, and construction of raw water storage on Maroon and Castle creeks.”

“1984 Raw Water Study made the following recommendations,” including “Authorize the preparation of an application to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Bureau of Reclamation for the funding of feasibility studies for the Maroon and Castle Creek Reservoirs.

“These studies should take a basin-wide approach to integrate the reservoirs into a comprehensive water management program to reduce system demands and to construct revenue-producing facilities. Other sites, including those on the mainstem of the Roaring Fork River, should be included in this study.”

“A comprehensive environmental assessment, including the ‘no action’ alternative, will be an important part of these studies.”

The recommendations also noted, The authorizing Act and Operating Principles of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project require the Bureau of Reclamation to prepare a feasibility study on a reservoir of up to 5,000 acre feet, in order to offset adverse streamflow conditions in the Roaring Fork River above Aspen.”

The plan identifies potential improvements to the city’s water system and lists the “Castle Creek Raw Water Reservoir” as being slated to built in the 2000 at a cost of $24 million and the “Maroon Creek Raw Water Reservoir” slated for 2005 at a cost of $15 million.

The plan studied potential water shortages in a severely dry year, and found that 99 percent of the potential shortages relate to the city’s policy of maintaining minimum streamflows on Castle and Maroon creeks, and 1 percent relates to meeting irrigation demand.

“Generally speaking, the shortages are a manageable condition since they occur in the areas of minimum streamflows and raw water irrigation. The City at least is not faced with a very high probability of water rationing in the potable system.”

From p. 142 of the 1990 plan: “The city currently holds two major decrees for water storage on Castle Creek (9,062 AF) and Maroon Creek (4,567 AF). Although these rights are relatively junior, water should be available for storage during the spring runoff periods even in dry years. These reservoirs should be developed as a part of a comprehensive plan designed for the purposes of water supply, hydropower, streamflow enhancement, and lake recreation.”

“Releases from storage could be used to meet the shortages on Maroon and Castle creeks both in the winter and summer months. It is one of the few options available for water supply that can meet shortages on a year round basis. The hydropower could be generated from releases at the new reservoir sites, spillages at the existing diversion dams, and by diversions into the Maroon and Castle creek pipelines for in-line pipeline hydropower.”

“If desirable, releases could also be used to sustain minium streamflows during dry periods. The environmental advantages of such a release program would be countered by the environmental disadvantages of declining lake levels and exposed shorelines in an area adjacent to the Maroon Bells Wilderness area.”

Form p. 145: “The firm annual yields of the two reservoirs are estimated to be approximately 1,800 AF for the Maroon Creek Reservoir and 3,100 AF for the Castle Creek Reservoir.”

“The unit costs for the firm annual water yield are $6,300 and $7,300 per AF per year for the Maroon and Castle Creek reservoirs, respectively.”

“Because the reservoirs are among the most expensive water supply alternatives, they may not be economically feasible unless developed as a multiple-use project including hydropower and lake recreation. A detailed feasibility study could optimize the sizes and locations for these facilities and reduce their unit costs.”

“The facilities will be paid for by revenues from the hydropower facilities and user charges from the city’s water service area.”

P. 147: “The construction of either the Maroon or Castle Creek reservoir would be a major undertaking for the city. It addition to the potential major economic impacts on the region, major environmental effects must also be considered. Any decision to construct or not to construct should be approached carefully. This and previous studies should be consolidated and amplified into one comprehensive feasibility study following guidelines established by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.”

“The Bureau of Reclamation could be another source of funding since the authorizing act and operating principles of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project require the Bureau to prepare a feasibility study on a reservoir up to a capacity of 5,000 AF in order to offset adverse stream flow conditions in the Roaring Fork River upstream of Aspen. If desirable, the plan could then be submitted to the CWCB for low interest debt support or construction grants.”

The two reservoirs were listed as the two lowest priorities in the plan. The capital costs for the Castle Creek Reservoir was listed as $22,655,000, or $7,300 an AF and the cost of the Maroon Creek Reservoir was $52,022,000, or $3,372 an AF.

Under the heading of “water rights adjudications,” on p. 153, the report discusses the two reservoirs: “As discussed earlier, development of these reservoirs represents the final step in the overall system development and is vitally necessary in order to ensure a reliable water supply in successive drought years.”

“To pursue the development of these water rights and the application of water to a beneficial use, city staff shall continue to develop data as to design, hydrology, and engineering to determine optimum reservoir construction.”

“The city shall ensure that these conditional water rights are maintained until such time as they are made absolute.”

Under the heading, “Raw Water Storage,” on p. 160, the plan states: “The Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir were conditionally decreed in 1971 for 4,567 acre-feet and 9,062 acre-feet respectively.”

“The timing for the construction of these facilities shall be contingent upon the rate of growth of the service areas and upon the needs of treatment and distribution facilities.”

“The reservoirs are the final step to be implemented in the upgrading of the entire Aspen water supply system, to ensure reliability of water quality and quantity during successive drought years. These reservoirs are also instrumental to the implementation of city policy providing for stream flow and aesthetic protection. Utility system capability shall be such that either or both reservoirs may be constructed or filled without reducing available dry year peak period supplies to the entire city.”

“The city manager shall seek proposals from engineers specializing in the fields of engineering, geology, and hydrology to determine the supply available to each reservoir, for the purpose of determining how to best design, schedule, and utilize existing system and new system development, as well as to determine optimum reservoir construction.”

“Such proposals shall include the consideration of proper dam and reservoir area construction to minimize environmental hazards and impacts and to prevent deterioration of water quality and quantity in Maroon Creek and Castle Creek during construction and reservoir filling.”

“The water department shall determine what system development prerequisites are necessary prior to commencement of reservoir construction or filling. Studies shall be undertaken to determine the possible use of these reservoirs for hydroelectric power generation, recreation, augmentation, lease, and exchange.”

Under the heading of water conservation, on p. 204, the report states: “A comprehensive conservation program designed to reduce peak and average water demands might allow the city to live within the firm dry-year flow of its existing supply without resort to reservoirs, or at least allow construction of smaller, less expensive, and less environmentally damaging reservoirs.”

March 17, 1992, letter from Colorado attorney general’s office to city of Aspen regarding potential abandonment of water rights in Castle and Maroon creeks.

” … the state engineer proposes that the city of Aspen abandon 73 cfs of the Midland Flume water right. Our gauging information indicates that Castle Creek rarely has more than 35 cfs flowing in the stream at your decreed point of diversion.”

Feb. 27, 1993, Avalanches block flow of Castle and Maroon creeks for a day

June 28, 1993, Aspen Mayor John Bennett signs Resolution No. 5, Series of 1993 (as amended by Reso. 49 of 1993), adopting the city’s official water policy.

This document still stands as the city’s official city water policy.

It says, in one section, that “In delivering water services the City shall provide and maintain the highest level of protection for the natural environment as reasonably possible as determined by the City within its sole discretion, subject only to considerations of public health and safety.”

October 1994, Water study: “Evaluation of water availability,” October 1994 update, by Enartech for city of Aspen

“This report summarizes the results of a raw water availability study completed for the City of Aspen. The study updates long-term water supply projections for the City that were made ten years ago in 1984.”

“The updated estimates of water availability differ from the 1984 projections in response to several factors, including: updated water demand forecasts; improved stream flow estimates resulting from limited on-site monitoring; and  revised operational policies, including a desire to maintain instream flow conditions.”

Under “conclusions” on the summary page:

“Water availability typically exceeds the combined demands of the City, instream flows and other water users on Castle Creek, Maroon Creek and the Roaring Fork River. Stream flow commonly remains greater than the CWCB instream flow rights following diversions by the City and other local water users. However, during infrequent dry periods, stream flow may not be great enough to meet existing City demands, and at the same time maintain desired instream flow conditions below the intake facilities.”

“Simulation results indicate that with existing municipal demands, shortages in potable water supplies may be expected in the winter months of three out of the 23 years studied. As future development results in larger municipal demands, the amount of dry year potable shortages will increase, and the frequency of shortages may also increase. Potential snowmaking demands from Maroon Creek could also significantly increase the frequency and magnitude of water supply shortages.”

“Shortages of untreated irrigation supplies may occur more frequently. On Castle Creek, it is estimated that shortages of irrigation water could occur in the fate summer months in 9 out of the 23 years studied. Availability of irrigation supplies could be further reduced as future development increases the amount of water diverted for potable supply.”

Aug. 8, 1995, letter from engineer Kerry Sundeen to Phil Overeynder of the city of Aspen re: “assessment of water demand/Castle Creek Reservoir and Maroon Creek Reservoir.

” … we estimate that a dry year demand for water storage upstream of the city intake facilities could exceed 6,000 acre feet by the end of the 16 year planning period. Long term storage demands could significantly exceed this amount.”

“The conditional water rights for the city’s Castle Creek and Maroon Creek reservoirs are relatively junior, and they may not be able to fill during dry years. It may be prudent to construct storage capacity that is greater than the dry year demand. This will allow the city to utilize carryover storage from previous years.”

“Also, if a permanent recreation pool is desired, the reservoir size should be increased. In this respect, the actual capacity of any constructed reservoir may be significantly greater than the anticipated water demand.”

Also notes that the Castle Creek Reservoir is six miles upstream from the city’s Castle Creek diversion structure, that it would have a maximum water depth of 165 feet, with a maximum surface area of about 120 acres.

The Maroon Creek Reservoir is four miles upstream of the city’s diversion structure on Maroon Creek and that the reservoir would be 150 feet deep and cover 85 acres.

Under the heading “potential reservoir demand,” the report finds that to meet shortages of potable water supply, up to 1,727 acre feet of water would need to be released from either reservoir.

To meet irrigation shortages, another 674 acre feet would be required from Castle Creek and 300 acre feet from Maroon Creek.

In order to meet the city’s policy of maintaining instream flows, “we estimate that during the 1977 and 1978 years, additional reservoir releases of 400 acre feet to Castle Creek and 1,100 acre feet to Maroon Creek would be required to maintain recommended instream flow conditions.”

“Total potential demand for Castle Creek is 3,225 acre feet and 3,500 acre feet for Maroon Creek. The cumulative demand for both streams exceeds 6,000 acre feet per year. These demands are associated with a critically dry year, and in many years reservoir releases would be significantly less.”

Under the heading of “Carryover reservoir storage,” the report says “the water rights for the Castle Creek and Maroon Creek reservoirs are relatively junior and will be subject to a water right call from the senior Cameo Demand located on the Colorado River near Grand Junction. During dry years, these junior reservoir rights may only be in priority for approximately one month, or less, during spring runoff.”

“A review of stream flow data for Castle Creek and Maroon Creek indicate that these reservoirs may not be able to fill during dry years. In 1977, estimated storable inflow to Castle Creek Reservoir was potentially less than 3,000 acre feet. Storable inflow to the Maroon Creek Reservoir was potentially less than 4,000 acre feet in this dry year.”

“Given the small amount of storable inflow in dry years, it may be prudent to plan for carryover storage. In this regard, the reservoirs would be constructed to a capacity greater than the potential annual reservoir demand, and water stored in average and wetter than average years could be released in subsequent dry periods.”

“If permanent recreation pools are desired for either storage facility, the total reservoir capacity should also be increased.”

Sept. 5, 1995, City files due diligence application, via Cynthia Covell, (diligence period was extended to six years in 1990)

Cites: 1994 Raw Water Supply Study:

“The studies concluded that applicant may not have sufficient water supplies from Castle Creek and Maroon Creek to satisfy existing potable and non-potable water demands during critically dry years.”

“The studies further concluded that as growth within the city’s service area continues, potential dry year shortages will increase. These conclusions, in turn, provide a time frame for the construction of the Maroon Creek and Castle Creek Reservoirs by demonstrating the level of development at which the reservoirs will be required.”

Also cited as evidence of diligence: completed Maroon Creek hydropower plant, repaired leaks, reconstructed Maroon Creek intake at diversion dam, extended service area, and defended water rights.

“Applicant City of Aspen, having demonstrated that it has steadily applied effort to complete the appropriation of this water right in a reasonably expedient and efficient manner … ”

Jan. 4, 1996, City awarded, for sixth time, due diligence in case 95CW187.

Dec. 15, 1997, city approves an agreement with CWCB to protect instream flow of 12 cfs on Castle Creek. The agreement allows the city to go below the instream flow during periods of “extraordinary drought,” which is undefined.

2000, Aspen population: 5,914

Feb. 4, 2002, City files due diligence application

Cites: improvements to raw water delivery system, extension to Five Trees, defended its water rights, and reached settlement in the Twin Lakes case.

Sept. 3, 2003, City awarded, for seventh time, due diligence in case 02CW19.

January 11, 2005, Pabst’ obit runs in the Aspen Times

AT: “Former Aspen Mayor Harald “Shorty” Pabst, the son and grandson of two of the men who ran Pabst Brewing Co. in Milwaukee, died Monday in Grand Junction at age 89. Pabst, a lifelong rancher, was an executive vice president at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies [now The Aspen Institute], president of the Aspen Meadows, a director at the Aspen Skiing Corp. and a trustee at Colorado Rocky Mountain School. He was also a director of the First Wisconsin National Bank in Milwaukee.”

December 18, 2007, City of Aspen and Pitkin County write letter on pending federal legislation to expand the Fry-Ark Project, citing Western Slope storage  authorized in the project. City of Aspen water officials suggest the additional storage authorized in the Fry-Ark project is the Castle Creek Reservoir or another reservoir in lieu of that reservoir, and that’s what this letter was referring to.

“The Fry-Ark Project’s authorizing legislation clearly contemplated that the Western Slope was included in its service area. Additionally, its operating principles specifically recognized that the Fry-Ark Project was intended to ‘protect western Colorado water uses. both existing and potential … and the preservation of recreational values.’

“The Western Slope is supported by a strong residential home market (with high property values), diverse recreational interests and a significant amount of agriculture. It is important that the Western Slope’s present and future water supply and storage requirements (for both consumptive and non-consumptive uses) be placed on a par with those of the Eastern Slope and included In all discussions on H.R. 1833.

“Any feasibility study resulting from HR. 1833 must address Western Colorado’s present and future regional water needs. not just investigate ways to mitigate impacts from an increase in trans-mountain diversions.”

Sept. 30, 2009, city files due diligence application (09CW145), prepared by Cynthia Covell and signed by Phil Overeynder. Cites integrated water supply system, improvements to system, and defense of water rights. Also provides map locating reservoirs.

Lists property owners of land under reservoirs, which include USF and three private property owners in Castle Creek, ASP Properties, LLC, Mark and Karen Hedstrom and Simon Pinniger.

“Whereas, Applicant city of Aspen, having demonstrated that it has steadily applied effort to complete the appropriation of this water right in a reasonably expedient and efficient manner under all the facts and circumstances, respectfully request this court to find that has exercised reasonable diligence in putting to beneficial use the Castle Creek Reservoir and Maroon Creek Reservoir water rights conditionally decreed in CA5884 and to continue the conditional decree for another six years, or such period as may otherwise be permitted by law.”

Nov. 9, 2009, USFS sends letter to city regarding reservoirs.

Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest, told the city the reservoirs would require federal review and “would not comply with the goals and objectives” of the current forest plan.

“For example, the Maroon Creek Reservoir, as currently sited, would not be compatible with the specific management of this highly visited area for the protection of its high scenic value.”

“Both proposed structures would conflict with our management objective to maintain or improve long-term riparian ecosystem conditions in the forest.”

Nov. 30, 2009, statement of opposition filed by Mark and Karen Hedstrom.

The opposers are owners of land on which the Castle Creek Reservoir conditional water right is located and may be injured by the granting of the application.”

Dec. 22, 2009, State engineer’s summary of consultation of city’s last due diligence filing, (09CW145).

“The claim for diligence is thin and should be supplemented with additional information.”

“The applicant must also demonstrate a continuing and legitimate need and the ability to develop the remaining conditional portion of the water right.”

Also, “The applicant needs to clarify the intent of the use of water for ‘other beneficial purposes.’ Otherwise, diligent effort on a vague claim such as ‘other beneficial purposes’ cannot be shown.”

2010, Aspen population: 6,858

May 3, 2010, City and Hedstroms file stipulation agreement.

The Hedstroms own 21 acres at 9555 Castle Creek Road.

“Based on the legal description of the Castle Creek Reservoir contained in the CAS884 decree a portion of the Castle Creek Reservoir could potentially be located on a portion of the Hedstrom Property. However Aspen believes that it can construct the Castle Creek Reservoir as contemplated in the CA5894 decree on surrounding property and it will not be necessary to construct or locate the reservoir on the Hedstrom Property in order to store and utilize the conditional water right decreed for the Castle Creek Reservoir to meet present or reasonably anticipated future water needs of Aspen.”

May 21, 2010, Aspen’s answer to state engineer, in a letter from Andrea L. Benson with Alperstein and Covell, re 09CW145.

“Among other things, the City of Aspen has investigated the widespread and large increase in proportion of rainfall versus snowfall and the need for the City to develop these reservoir storage rights to preserve and retain its water supply for future needs.”

In an enclosed proposed ruling, Aspen cites ties to Fry-Ark project.

“The Frying Pan-Arkansas Project, authorized by legislation dated August 16, 1962, authorized construction, operation and maintenance of a replacement reservoir on Castle Creek to furnish water required for protection of western Colorado water users. This reservoir was contemplated to have a capacity of 5,000 acre-feet, but this reservoir was never built.

“In 1965, taking precautions to ensure that its water rights were protected in the event the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project reservoir was in fact never built on Castle Creek, the City of Aspen filed applications seeking its own conditional water rights for storage on Castle Creek and Maroon Creek, i.e., the Castle Creek Reservoir and Maroon Creek Reservoir water rights for which diligence is sought herein.”

“To date, the city of Aspen has not needed to construct the storage structures as it has devoted considerable resources to reducing per capita water consumption.”


“However, during the last diligence period, the City has analyzed studies on global warming and climate change and implications for the City of Aspen’s future water demand and supply and water management strategies. Such studies have indicated a widespread and large increase in proportion of rainfall versus snowfall and the need for the City of Aspen to develop these reservoir storage rights to preserve and retain its water supply for future needs.”

July 9, 2012, Aspen Journalism publishes article about the city’s Castle and Maroon creek water rights entitled “City maintains rights for dams on Castle and Maroon creeks.”

Nov. 26, 2012, Aspen city council meeting on buying 400 AF of water in Ruedi as augmentation water. See staff memo and “Attachment A” on water projects, including Castle and Maroon reservoirs.

“Studies prepared by Aspen conclude that the City’s water supplies are adequate to meet all currently-anticipated prospective needs within the urban growth boundary at build out.”

Nov. 30, 2012, City of Aspen Q&A on Ruedi water purchase and water management priorities.

“Only in emergency conditions, such as an extreme drought which brings water shortages to all of Aspen’s water supply sources, does the City consider provision of potable water supply as a priority over instream flow maintenance.”

Dec. 16, 2014, Municipal Water Efficiency Plan, City of Aspen

From the report prepared by Element Water Consulting and WaterDM

“The 2013 peak month population was estimated to be approximately 36,540 people,” or 3.5 times the full-time resident population.

“The analysis completed for this water efficiency plan indicates that the likely yield of the City’s direct flow water rights is around 26,850 acre feet in a dry year; however some of the city’s water rights are decreed for irrigation only and cannot be used as part of the city’s treated water supply. The maximum annual treated water use in Aspen over the past 5 years was 3,244 AF in 2012 and the range of forecast future demands in the year 2035 are from 3,597 AF to a maximum of 4,180 AF.”

“Aspen holds decreed conditional storage rights on Castle Creek and Maroon Creek, but environmentally-sensitive construction of these reservoirs will be extremely costly, so Aspen is first implementing other options discussed in this plan in its effort to efficiently provide a legal, reliable water supply to its customers. The timing, cost and ultimate configuration of the storage reservoirs will continued to be evaluated.”

“The city has established an average water efficiency goal of approximately 28 AF (0.7%) reduction in treated demand per year compared with a continuation of current demand. By 2035, it is estimated that this program will reduce treated demand by about 583 AF – an overall 14 percent reduction in demand.”

“The city of Aspen water department currently employs 27 people.”

“The capacity of Leonard Thomas Reservoir is 13 acre-feet or 4.2 million gallons.”

City has three downtown wells: Little Nell Well, Mill Street Well and Rio Grande Well.

Castle Creek Pipeline is about two miles in length, Maroon Creek Pipeline is about five miles in length.

“The water treatment plants collectively produce approximately 1.0 billion gallons of treated water per year, or approximately 3,070 AF/yr.”

“Maximum capacity of the water treatment plant is approximately 30.9 cfs (20 MGD).

“Irrigation requirements are based on historical diversions from 2011-2013 and totaled 32 cfs. This represents diversions through the Holden, Marolt, and Si Johnson Ditches.”

“The annual firm (1977) water supply available for treated and raw water irrigation diversions from Castle Creek and Maroon Creek is estimated to be around 26,850 AF/year at current infrastructure capacities. However the city does not have a storage component that would allow it to retime water supplies to match water deliveries with demands.”

“ … the daily firm yield of the treated water system is estimated to be around 7.8 MGD.”

Under the heading of “Reservoir Storage,” there is a bullish statement:

“The potential need for surface storage of snowmelt runoff from Castle and Maroon Creeks has been included in the city’s water management program since the 1960s. The development of surface water storage at specific sites identified in conditional water rights held by the city for this purpose is expected to eliminate water shortage conditions, even if there is a significant shift in the amount of timing of snowfall accumulation and runoff due to factors such as climate change.”

The study sets a baseline demand for the study, based on 2012 and 2013, for 3,186 acre feet a year, with 2,661 AF coming from city customers and 525 acre feet a year for snowmaking. (Not clear if that includes Aspen Mountain, Highlands and Buttermilk, or just two of the three areas).

The five-year average of indoor use by city customers from 2009 to 2013 was 1,515 acre feet. That’s the real core of the domestic water system.

Total water deliveries in the same period, including snowmaking, was 3,096 AF.

Average monthly water demands go from 150 acre feet in January to 450 acre feet in July.

Full-time population in 15 years was projected to rise to 13,496, which is a doubling, which seems optimistic. And seasonal population is expected to go from 27,112 in 2016 to 34,009 in 2035.

A beaver pond in 2016 where the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir would be built. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Feb. 26, 2016, the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District, in an application to the state to use treated wastewater on the city’s golf course for irrigation, includes an email from the golf course director saying the city uses 62 million gallons, or 190 acre-feet, of water a year to irrigate 109 acres of turf on the golf course.

June 6, 2016, Aspen city council adopts via a resolution the Wilson Water raw water availability study as a planning document. Staff memo says “no supply gaps would exist with any of the projected water needs if historical hydrologic conditions were maintained.”

Also says that ” … five climate change scenarios were analyzed that reflect at least 80% of the variability between hundreds of versions of climate models describing future hydrologic conditions for Colorado,” meaning it did consider climate change.

Also says: “The results of this analysis indicate the city can always provide sufficient potable and raw water supplies under these modeled demand and hydrology scenarios. Existing water supply infrastructure and water rights portfolio developed and managed by the City do not appear to be limiting factors in this evaluation. However, during drought periods, physical water supplies may limit the City from satisfying desired ISF (instream flow) bypasses. These modeled ISF deficits are forecasted to occur during drought periods in only the climate scenarios with very low late summer and winter streamflow conditions. Most ISF deficits occur at a frequency of 5% of the time or 1 out of 20 years. The predicted average daily ISF deficits are relatively small and can be managed utilizing the existing water supply tools the City has in place and/or is actively developing.”

The study says the worse-scenario gap between supply and demand – including irrigation and meeting the instream flow goals – is ab0ut 8 cfs, which can likely be met by the tools described in the plan, such as water restrictions, a water reuse program, and new wells, all of which the city is currently pursuing or has in place.

The study does not call for storage facilities. And the only recommendation it makes is for the city to monitor the effects of climate change.

June 6, 2016, Aspen city council approves contract with Lotic Hydrological, and accompanying proposal, to prepare the Roaring Fork River management plan. See staff memo.

Oct. 10, 2016, City council passes resolution directing staff to file due diligence by Oct. 31, 2016.

The resolution said “the City is obligated and intends to provide a legal and reliable water supply and to that end can and will develop all necessary water rights, including but not limited to, Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir.”

Oct. 20, 2016, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board discusses Aspen’s pending diligence filing.

Per minutes: ” … there does not appear to be a need for the two reservoir sites to meet the City’s present and future water needs as those needs have been defined by the city.”

” … there does not appear to be any willingness on the part of the city to actually follow through and construct these dams, that the continued existence of the water rights only presents the potential for a highly impactive event to occur on Castle and Maroon Creeks.”

Credit: Source: Wilderness Workshop

Oct. 31, 2016, City files two diligence applications, one for Castle Creek Reservoir and one for Maroon Creek Reservoir.

Dec. 31, 2016, Ten parties file statements of opposition in two diligence cases.

Jan. 23, 2017, Division Engineer and Water Court Referee file statements of consultation on city’s diligence applications.

Jan. 27, 2017, City of Aspen lays out plans for public process and additional studies on storage needs and concepts.

Feb. 9, 2017, first status conference in diligence cases held.

The location of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

March 3, 2017, A report from the Consensus Building Institute is completed. The report, prepared for the city after extensive stakeholder interviews by outside consultants, found that “the city currently has a unique opportunity to plan for Aspen’s future water needs in an engaged, collaborative, and comprehensive way, but some daunting challenges do exist.”

It also said:

“There is a need to carefully manage the relationship and timing between the collaborative process and the due diligence case currently before the water court referee in Division 5.”

“Stakeholders expressed concern regarding the degree of transparency that will be possible, in light of the concurrent conditional water rights case and indications from the city that some of the information germane to the court may not be publicly released during that time.”

“Stakeholders expressed interest in transparency regarding the data and studies being used by the city, including the city’s underlying assumptions and beliefs regarding the data, its sources, comprehensiveness, and predictability.”

And, “The city has an opportunity to increase trust in its process and decisions and also must overcome a deficit, to some degree, of public trust.”

Credit: Aspen Journalsim

March 16, 2017: Don Deere of Deere and Ault writes to Margaret Medellin of the city of Aspen. He attaches his paper on in-situ reservoirs, and says technique may work at the airport “as Victor (DeWolfe) discussed.” Says the golf course may require a more intensive construction technique “because of depth and hard bedrock” that requires a 100-foot-wide working path.

March 16, 2017, Aspen officials, Steve Barwick and Margaret Medellin, discuss storage needs and options with Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board. At the meeting, which was recorded by Aspen Journalism and Pitkin County, Barwick told the river board:

“All of this, this whole notion of how much water do we need and how much water do we need to store, and all of that, has been based upon very preliminary analysis. And now it’s time to tighten up the whole analysis and do a rational set of studies so we can have a rational discussion with the entire valley about what are we going to do here. How much storage do we need, and where do we want to put it?”

Barwick also said:

“We have a very large work program that we’re looking at doing. We’re going to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years. But we don’t anticipate that we’re going to get even preliminary answers for several years down the road.”

He also discussed in-situ storage, saying he had just learned of the concept.

March 21, 2017, The first initial settlement conference in the diligence cases held. According to multiple parties in attendance, early on in the meeting Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron scolded the opposing parties for “suing” the city in water court.

March 28, 2017, Brent Gardner-Smith of Aspen Journalism interviews Ward Hauenstein, candidate for Aspen city council for Grassroots TV’s “Probeline” series. Hauenstein would go on to win a seat on the council in a runoff election on June 6, 2017. The interview turns to the subject of the Castle and Maroon creek reservoirs at at 36:50.

April 5, 2017, Brent Gardner-Smith of Aspen Journalism interviews Ann Mullins, an incumbent city council member, for “Probeline.” Mullins would be re-elected, with the most votes of any council candidate, in May, to a second four-year term. The interview turns to the subject of the Castle and Maroon Creek reservoirs at 37:23.

April 5, 2017, The Aspen Times asks the two mayoral candidates their opinions about the diligence rights and the dams and reservoirs.

Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, who would go on to handily win re-election in May, said “The city should reserve its rights. Without knowing more about viable alternatives to water storage, it simply would not be prudent water management or responsible government to give up these water rights.”

April 6, 2017 Brent Gardner-Smith of Aspen Journalism interviews Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron for “Probeline.” Skadron would be re-elected in May to a third two-year term. The interview turns to the subject of the Castle and Maroon Creek reservoirs at 47:44.

Credit: Wilderness Workshop

April 12, 2017, The Aspen Times asks council candidates about the potential dams.

Ann Mullins, who would go on to get the most votes in the election for council, said “The last thing I want to do is build a dam, and in the next few years with the cooperation of everyone concerned we can come up with the solution that works for Aspen.”

Ward Hauenstein, who would go on to win a run-off for a council seat, said, “The city should not build dams on either Maroon or Castle creeks. The environment should not be compromised.”

April 19, 2017, The Aspen Daily News publishes a letter from the “city of Aspen Utilities and Environmental Initiatives staff via Margeret Medellin,” a member of the staff.

The letter states that “Aspen’s legal rights for storage in Maroon and Castle Creeks have been a part of our Integrated Water System since 1965. To maintain these rights, Aspen must file diligence applications with water court every six years through a public process. These rights are not, nor have they ever been, secret.”

April 25, 2017, Aspen Journalism interviews Chris Treese, the external affairs manager at the Colorado River District about Aspen’s conditional water rights. The resulting edited transcript explores a number of questions about conditional water rights. The River District is not a part in the water court cases, and it has itself walked away from conditional storage rights on the Crystal River. Treese’s perspective is worth reading. Highlights below.

“BGS: To be clear, if you’ve steadily applied effort to ‘complete the appropriation’ of the conditional water right, then you’re moving towards storing the water. And if you are moving toward storing water, you need to be moving toward building a structure, a dam.

“CT: Yes, right.

“BGS: That’s what ‘complete the appropriation’ ultimately means, right?

“CT: Yes it does. Storage is clearly the end game, but diligence doesn’t specifically mean you’ve applied for a permit, or that you’ve hired bond counsel. There are a lot of early steps that may qualify as diligence.”

“Municipalities have enjoyed almost unfettered ability to hold on to water rights and to perfect their conditional rights as part of their portfolio, either because they are growing or because they may grow. So the great and growing cities doctrine has provided an essentially unconstrained ability for municipalities to hold large quantities of water rights.”

“The Supreme Court found that 50 years is a reasonable planning horizon, and it recognizes that water projects take a long time to develop and water rights can be evermore critical during a period like 50 years. It also said that there has to be some common sense, some historical reality, to the projections over that 50-year period.”

“What you can’t do is come in to a diligence filing and say, ‘We’ve talked about this.’ That’s not diligence. You would have had to do more than talk about it, you would have had to at least study it.”

“The courts recognize that developing a reservoir is not as simple as getting a bunch of spray-painted shovels and having a ground-breaking ceremony. There are a lot of studies, and permits, and financing, and there’s a lot that goes into the early conditional period when planning for a reservoir.”

“We don’t see this as the bargaining chip that we need to, or have been asked to, help preserve. It’s a tool in the toolbox, perhaps, but we haven’t analyzed exactly how these water rights might be used in the ongoing poker game.”

April 27, 2017, Western Resource Advocates and Wilderness Workshop sent a letter and a memo to the city of Aspen proposing to work with the city on exploring three alternatives to the potential reservoirs – water efficiency, reuse of water, and alternative agricultural transfer.

April 30, 2017, Aspen Daily News publishes a letter from Marcella Larsen titled “Aspen dams wrong policy, bad precedent.”

She wrote, “Remember, Aspen’s dams are a specific approval to store water in a particular place far up Castle and Maroon creeks, conditioned on actual construction of dams within a reasonable period of time. Aspen’s senior water rights that supply drinking water are not the same as the conditional dam rights. If this case does not settle and goes to trial, Aspen will have to prove it can, will, and legitimately needs to dam the Maroon Bells, including wilderness areas.”

Berries in the meadow near the Maroon Bells that would be flooded by a Maroon Creek Reservoir. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

May 1, 2017, the city of Aspen sends a draft work plan with an anticipated timeline for various studies to all of the attorneys representing the opposing parties in the Castle and Maroon creek cases and cc’s six city officials.

The work plan includes tasks (primarily studies) estimated completion dates, and consultants, if known. The tasks are named below and sorted by the “estimated end date” on the chart from the city:

“investigation of mine water/storage potential,” July 2017, Deere and Ault;

“investigation of in-situ storage,” July 2017, Deere and Ault;

“groundwater system strategy,” December 2017, HRS;

“collaborate with WRA, WWW and others on conservation, reuse, agriculture transfers and other alternatives,” December 2017, TBD;

“update climate change models,” December 2017, TBD;

“update streamflow and demand projections,” December 2017, Headwaters Corp.;

“studies in support of public process;” December 2017, TBD;

“public outreach,” until February 2018, consultant tbd;

“present recommendations of public process to city council,” February 2018 to April 2018, no consultant;

“implementation of reuse system,” April 2018, Carollo;

“conservation programs,” June 2018, Element, others TBD; and

“additional studies as required to respond to city council direction,” June 2018, TBD.

None of the studies listed directly pertain to the feasibility of either the Castle or Maroon creek reservoirs.

A wetland area that would be flooded by a Castle Creek Reservoir. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

May 8, 2017, Craig Corona, the water attorney for the Larsen Family Limited Partnership, sends a settlement letter to Cynthia Covell, the water attorney for the city of Aspen. (The letter is later released to the public by Marcella Larsen, on May 15, 2017).

The letter says, “We propose that the opposers agree to a stay of this diligence proceeding to give the City time to file an application to change the location and size of the reservoir water rights in water court. At a minimum, the City would have to agree to move the reservoirs from their decreed location to a location within the City’s jurisdiction.”

May 9, 2017, a status conference on the two water court cases for Castle and Maroon is held by the water court referee. The referee holds, in a “minute order,” that the city must file a response to the summary of consultation in the case by July 10, 2017, and also on that same day must file “a timeline that is as concrete as possible for completing the reports necessary to support the diligence claims.” The next status conference was set for Aug. 10, 2017. Notably, Larsen Family LP reserved its right to re-refer the case directly to the water court judge at any time.

May 9, 2017, Cynthia Covell sends Craig Corona a letter regarding the settlement proposal. The letter was later referenced in a story published by the Aspen Daily News, on May 18, 2017, in this paragraph: “Cynthia Covell, a Denver water attorney who handles water rights issues for the city, responded to the May 8 letter with questions about how the stay would function, while also defending the city’s ongoing process to study future water supply and demand, Corona said.”

May 11, 2017, Craig Corona sends Cnythia Covell another letter regarding the Larsen settlement proposal. (The letter is made public by Marcella Larsen on May 15, 2017).

The letter states, in part:

“If all parties agree to it, the City’s two diligence cases can be stayed and put on hold while the City files an application to change the location of the reservoirs. The goal would be to have the opposers agree not to oppose the change application (with some limitations). If an outside party opposes because the diligence cases aren’t finished first, the City could withdraw the change application and the parties will be in the same position they are in now. But, if there’s no objection and the change is decreed, dams won’t be built in the wilderness and the City will retain its water rights – a win-win. Unlike our first proposal, this allows the City to test whether a change case will be successful before giving up the decreed locations.”

May 11, 2017, Deere and Ault consultants issue a report on the idea of storing water in old Aspen mines, concluding that “it appears that the cons generally outweigh the pros” and that mine storage is a “high risk alternative.”

The Castle Creek reservoir would hold 9,062 acre-feet of water behind a 170-foot-tall dam located about two miles below the historic town site of Ashcroft. The city’s conditional water rights for the Castle and Maroon creek reservoirs are officially on the state’s books through 2016, when the city will need to convince the state water court it is diligently making progress toward building the dams. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism / Aspen Journalism

May 15, 2017, Aspen city council holds a work session on “Aspen’s water future,” including a presentation from consultants from Deere and Ault on potential mine storage and in-situ storage. At the meeting, there was a limited running discussion of the potential need for the city to store 14,000 acre feet of water, or not.

The documents made public as part of the meeting included:

a quarterly progress report on implementing Reso 16-141, regarding the reservoirs;

an April 2017 monthly status report on progress on implementing Reso 141;

a March 2017 monthly status report on Reso 141; and

a request for proposals from the city for public outreach services.

The May 15 work session included a presentation on the findings from engineers Deere and Ault after their explorations into the feasibility of storing mine in old silver mines in Aspen and of building an in-situ reservoir under the city’s golf course.

The meeting was interesting for the presentations about mine and in-situ storage, but also for a running sub-discussion that revealed more about what some of Aspen’s elected officials know about the potential reservoirs and what they do not know. Please our notes on the meeting, but some highlights are below.

“We don’t even have a ballpark for the upper valley storage solution,” Adam Frisch, Aspen city council member.

“We have an old number, but it would be something that we would need to update,” Margaret Medellin, utilities portfolio manager for the city of Aspen.

The location of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

May 15, 2017, Marcella Larsen of Larsen Family Limited Partnership, one of the opposing parties in the Maroon Creek Reservoir case, sends copies of two letters concerning a proposed settlement agreement directly to the Aspen city council and copies the email, with the documents attached, to reporters at Aspen Journalism, The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News. The two letters, dated May 8, 2017 and May 11, 2017, were from her attorney Craig Corona to the city’s water attorney, Cynthia Covell.

The subject line of Larsen’s email reads, “Solutions to Aspen’s Wilderness Area Dams, which you don’t even know about … ”

The body of the email is below.

“Dear Aspen City Council:

“As you know, the Larsen Family LP is an objector in Aspen’s efforts to place dams in the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area. Recently, we sent an offer of settlement to Aspen (5/8 and 5/11), which we understand council has not been provided, even though you had a work session today regarding your so-called water storage needs (unsupported by any study, so far).

“At this point, without addressing the legal and ethical issues of failing to provide you our settlement offer, we are simply sharing our offer with you directly.

“Also copied are the press, meaning the public, whom should be informed of the facts as well.

“There are solutions to your wilderness area dams. We hope you will take us up on our generous offer to settle the mess you have gotten yourselves into, without more needless and irresponsible expenditures of taxpayer funds.

“Marcella Larsen
Co-Manager, Larsen Family LP”

A view of the Castle Creek valley near the proposed dam site for the Castle Creek Reservoir. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

May 18, 2017, Aspen Daily News publishes a story headlined “Settlement offer proposed to city on future dams.”

May 22, 2017, Aspen city council approves new landscaping and watering regulations designed to reduce water use.

May 22, 2017, the Aspen city council holds an executive session for, in part, the purpose of a “conference with attorneys regarding pending litigation, Castle and Maroon Creek diligence cases … ” and for “determining positions relative matters that may be subject to negotiations; developing strategy for negotiations … ”

May 23, 2017, Cynthia Covell on behalf of the city of Aspen sends Craig Corona, the water attorney for the Larsen Family Limited Partnerhsip, a letter informing him that “Aspen cannot accept your client’s settlement offer.”

The letter was distributed to the attorneys representing other opposing parties in the two cases, and according to an attorney in the cases, the letter also said, “A new application to change the location (of) the Maroon Creek Reservoir conditional storage right would require that a new location be specified. Aspen must complete its supply/demand study and identify an alternative location or locations for the Maroon Creek Reservoir storage right in order to be able to file a change application to move that right, or some portion thereof, to another location.”

May 31, 2017, Marecella Larsen of Larsen Family LP responds, in an email exchange, to questions from Aspen Journalism. Larsen is a retired attorney and served for four years as the assistant Pitkin County attorney from 1997 to 2001. Her answers, and point of view, as perhaps the most aggressive of the opposing parties in the two cases, are notable. Highlights below.

“Instead of trying to justify 14,000 acre feet of storage that would provide sixty-five years of unneeded storage, we wish Aspen would identify a realistic storage amount and location.”

“Our offer was quite clear that there were terms that could be negotiated, and the basic concept was that we would support (along with the other opposers) Aspen’s relocation of its dam rights, in a location and amount to be determined through negotiation. Again, that offer was rejected by Aspen.”

A map prepared by Deere and Ault and sent to the city on June 2, 2017, showing the Elam gravel pit and the neighboring parcel. Credit: Source: City of Aspen

June 2, 2017:

Victor DeWolfe of Deere and Ault writes to Medellin with the firm’s “professional opinion” for either “an in-situ storage project or a gravel pit reservoir project at the Woody Creek site in Pitkin County.”

“Based on our limited geological analysis performed to date, we feel that the site likely has a probability of success greater than 75%.”

“Very preliminary estimates for in-situ water storage at the Woody Creek site range from 300 to 900 acre feet. This range could increase potentially up to 1,000 to 2,000 acre feet if the site could be mined and reclaimed as open water storage.”

“The ultimate storage volume is highly speculative on the depth to bedrock at the site. The filed work will therefore help constrain these volume estimates and provide a basis for initial construction cost estimates.”

And suggests additional studies “can confirm an 85-90% probability of success and can be performed within 90 days for $166,000 as outlined in Table 1.”

Also includes an attached “Table 1.” It is also labeled “cost estimate” and titled “Woody Creek parcel pre-feasibility investigation.”

(In the subsequently produced city-produced materials, the title section has been removed and replaced with a one-line heading of “fee schedule,” but otherwise the numbers and categories are identical. The city’s document does not include a specific site for the work, but it was the same as an estimate prepared by Deere and Ault to study the Woody Creek site.)

June 9, 2017, Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick responds to a query from Aspen Journalism seeking confirmation of the May 23 settlement letter to Craig Corona.

Barwick’s reply, in total, was “The City of Aspen is still working with all parties in the water case with the hope of reaching a mutually agreeable settlement. We are still trying to refine water supply and demand estimates and study alternative storage locations.”

The Maroon Bells from the meadow just above the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks, and the location of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir. Credit: Brent Gardner=Smith/Aspen Journalism

June 12, 2017: council holds an executive session and the diligence cases are on the agenda.

June 30, 2017, City of Aspen’s utilities portfolio manager Margaret Medellin writes a staff memo on expanding the contract with Deere and Ault of Longmont to further study the possibility of an in-situ reservoir. A draft resolution and scope of work are attached to the memo. The documents pertain to amending an existing contract with Deere and Ault.

July 3, 2017, Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times publish an article about Deere and Ault’s preliminary analysis of in-situ storage under Aspen’s municipal golf course. The article is primarily based on the May 15 council work session and a June 26 interview with Don Deere.

July 3, 2017, David Hornbacher of the city writes to Don Deere at Deere and Ault and tells him “the City is now under contract for the property. Buckeye LLC is the agent working on behalf of the City. The contract for extension of services with Deere/Ault is on the July 10th Council Agenda. We are planning on the investigative work to begin on July 17th.”

July 3, 2017, George Oamek of Headwaters Corp. submits a preliminary risk analysis report on Aspen’s water supply and demand to the city of Aspen.

July 5, 2017, Victor DeWolfe of Deere and Ault sends to Hornbacher draft map of drilling locations on Woody Creek property, which include “6 borings and 8 test pits.” Also describes the heavy equipment and vehicles used in the construction process.

July 7, 2017, Aspen’s Utilities Portfolio Manager Margaret Medellin writes a staff memo regarding the preliminary risk analysis from Headwaters. The memo poses some questions for the City Council, including about its 1997 instream flow policy, which includes a provision that the city does not have to honor its own policy in times of “extraordinary drought”:

“Does Council want to revisit its policy on protecting instream flows?

“Would the City be willing to chronically reduce instream flows to meet potable demands?

“How many hours/days or raw water storage is necessary for Aspen’s risk tolerance?

“What does a worst-case scenario mean to you?”

July 7, 2017, Medellin writes to DeWolfe about “Proposal,” “one of councilmembers is questioning the cost proposal for the contract amendment.” (Ward Hausenstein, likely, as he says during July 10 council meeting he met with staff about contract costs.) DeWolfe writes back to Medellin, discusses cost elements of the work. “We recently did a study for a 200-foot high dam in Larimer county where we were able to use existing LiDAR and existing drilling data (three 150′ borings),” he says. “We dug test pits, mapped, did a conceptual layout and a report. It cost about $42k. This is probably the best comparison to your project.”

The location of the potential Maroon Creek dam and reservoir, just below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

July 10, 2017, 10:09 a.m., Aspen Journalism sends CORA request to city regarding initial contract with Deere and Ault: “Please consider this a formal request under the Colorado Open Record Act. The request is seeking all documents, reports, maps and related material associated with the professional services agreement between the City of Aspen and Deere and Ault Consultants regarding a screening study for in-situ reservoirs, per Resolution 60 of 2017 and the attached professional services agreement in Exhibit A. This request specifically seeks any and all written or graphic materials related to Task 2, the evaluation of in-situ storage sites, Task 3, the water resources review, Task 4, the water availability analysis and Task 5, reporting, especially the report as described in the agreement.”

July 10, 2017, Aspen’s water attorney submits a response to the Jan. 23, 2017, summaries of consultation in the two water court cases. The response does not address the key issues about due diligence that are raised in the summary of consultation.

“Aspen understands that it must meet the required burden of proof at trial in order to obtain a decree continuing this conditional water right for another six-year period,” the response said, “although Aspen does not entirely endorse the above characterization of what that burden of proof entails, or what legal arguments it is entitled to make.”

July 10, 2017, Aspen City Council, in a regular meeting, approves spending $116,000 to amend the contract with Deere and Ault to study in-situ storage. Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times publish an article about the meeting.

Aspen Journalism mistakenly reports that the contract was for drilling on the golf course, when it was was primarily for the Woody Creek site, as we have come to learn. The Woody Creek site was not mentioned or identified in any written public materials for the meeting. Those included a resolution, a staff memo, and the amended scope of work. The Woody Creek site was also not mentioned or specified during the discussion, review, and approval of the contract extension by city staff or council members.

The council also voted to formally appoint Mayor Steve Skadron and council member Ann Mullins to represent the city in the settlement negotiations with the opposing parties in the two water court cases.

The property next to the Elam gravel pit and the Woody Creek raceway that the city of Aspen has put under contract. The city is investigating the site as a place for potential water storage, either underground or above ground. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

July 11, 2017, Aspen City Council holds a work session and George Oamek presents his preliminary risk analysis to the council.

July 17, 2017, Aspen Times and Aspen Journalism publish a story headlined, “Aspen changing course on conditional water rights?”

July 17, 2017, Margaret Medellin writes to Jason Brothers at Deere and Ault, “I have a range of potential storage amounts and want to talk broadly about how we might convert this number into a reservoir volume.”

July 18, 2017, Medellin writes to George Oamek and Seth Turner at Headwaters and Jason Brothers at Deere and Ault to coordinate turning Oamek’s model results into estimates of reservoir sizing. Turner of Headwaters sends a spreadsheet on Oamek’s model to Brothers at Deere and Ault so they can begin a reservoir sizing analysis.

July 19, 2017, City of Aspen officials issue a press release regarding their plan to try and transfer all of the conditional storage rights in Castle and Maroon to other locations in the Roaring Fork Valley.

July 20, 2017, The Aspen Times and Aspen Journalism write a story on the announcement, as does the Aspen Daily News.

A map provided by the city of Aspen showing the two parcels in Woody Creek it has under contract. The city is investigating the possibility of building a reservoir on the site, as well as looking at the possibility of a reservoir in the neighboring Elam gravel pit. Credit: City of Aspen

July 24, 2017, City Council holds a meeting, recesses for a work session with George Oamek of Headwaters on his prelimiary results, and then hold an executive session with the due diligence cases on the agenda.

July 25, 2017, The Aspen Times and Aspen Journalism publish a story on the Headwaters presentation on July 24, and Aspen Journalism expands the story on its website. The Aspen Daily News also publishes a story on the Headwaters work.

July 27, 17, Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman discusses prospect of city storing water in Woody Creek with the Woody Creek Caucus. Minutes from the caucus meeting state “Greg said he has no info so far. It is all conjecture. He will let us know when/if he hears more.”

July 28, 2017, Former Aspen Mayor Stacy Standley publishes a guest column on Aspen’s water supply, and says about the city’s water planning efforts, “The city should have been doing this for years and not in desperation now as a way to protect the valuable water rights decrees.”

This meadow, about two miles below Maroon Lake, would be covered by the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir. The 85-acre reservoir would also flood portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Aug. 2, 2017, City of Aspen hosts a closed-door, facilitated settlement meeting with nine of the 10 opposing parties. It was the second such conference since statements of opposition were filed in the two water court cases.

Aug. 3, 2017, The Aspen Times and Aspen Journalism publish a story about the proposal put forth by the city at the meeting.

“The city of Aspen has told opposing parties in two water court cases it is willing to remove the prospect of a potential Maroon Creek Reservoir from the Maroon Creek valley, if the way is made clear for it to apply to transfer the conditional water rights for the reservoir to other sites in the Roaring Fork River valley,” the story begins.

Aug. 3, 2017, The city fulfills the July 10 CORA request from Aspen Journalism regarding the Deere and Ault initial contract, with a packet of emails related to the contract work and a packet of presentation slides not made public before.

Aug. 10, 2017, parties in the water court cases hold a status conference with the water court referee, Susan Ryan. (Listen to a recording of the conference). According to a “minute order” from the referee, the parties agree to a 90-day window in which to keep working toward settlement. Another status conference is set for Nov. 9 at 10 a.m.

Aug. 17, 2017, The Aspen Times and Aspen Journalism publish a story about the City of Aspen giving notice to the Colorado Water Conservation Board that it intends to apply for a state grant to study ways to obtain water from irrigators in the Roaring Fork River valley. The application was filed along with co-applicants Wilderness Workshop and Western Resource Advocates.

Aug. 21, 2017, Aspen City Council holds work session on whether to place a question on the Nov. 2017 ballot concerning the purchase of the parcel of land in Woody Creek the city has under contract as a potential reservoir site. During the meeting, council member Adam Frisch seems to indicate that the city is planning on purchasing the Elam gravel pit, rather than the property next to the gravel pit. He also calls the question a “slam dunk.” See two stories in The Aspen Times, one on Aug. 21 previewing the work session and one after the work session.

Aug. 23, 2017, The Aspen Times and Aspen Journalism publish a story about the Aug. 10 status conference.

Aug. 28, 2017, Aspen City Council votes, via the consent calendar during a regular meeting, to put a question on the Nov. ballot regarding the purchase of the Woody Creek parcel. There is very little discussion about the purchase or why voters should support the measure. After the meeting, the council met in executive session about the Castle and Maroon creek water rights cases.

Sept. 28, 2017, Woody Creek Caucus members briefly discuss city City of Aspen ballot question regarding purchase of Woody Creek parcel. “Nancy reminded that there are some items of interest on the upcoming November ballot,” the minutes state. “Aspen voters are asked to purchase (in Woody Creek) property for water storage. This property is by the gravel pit and could include the pit and the racetrack in the future. If they owned it, they could maybe put in dense employee housing on these parcels.”

Oct. 2, 2017, The Aspen Daily News publishes an article entitled “Woody Creek reservoir include gravel pit,” about an upcoming city council work session on Oct. 3 about a recently completed report from Deere and Ault regarding the potential to store water in Woody Creek rather than in the Castle and Maroon creek valleys.

A portion of the gravel pit in Woody Creek operated by Elam Construction. It’s hard to capture the scale of the gravel pit, but the little yellow speck in the back edge of the pit is a large dump truck. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Oct. 3, 2017, Aspen Public Radio reports on the city’s Oct. 3 work session, in a story entitled “Aspen to buy land in Woody Creek, regardless of vote.” A staff memo for the work session notes that “staff recommends passage, at a future regular Council meeting, of a resolution stating Council’s intent to buy the Woody Creek Parcel regardless of the outcome of the coming election issue regarding issuing general obligation bond debt for this purchase.”

Oct. 23, 2017, Aspen City Council adopts a resolution directing staff to purchase land for water storage in Woody Creek. Both staff memo and resolution strike a bullish tone on the city developing water storage in general and on the Woody Creek site. The resolution notes that “water storage rights and facilities are important components of the City’s long-range water supply planning” and it “directs staff to proceed with plans to develop the Woody Creek parcel for water storage.”

Nov. 1, 2017, The Aspen Times and Aspen Journalism publish a story entitled “City of Aspen directs staff to develop reservoirs in Woody Creek.”

Nov. 7, 2017, Aspen voters reject the opportunity to issue general obligation bonds to purchase land in Woody Creek for water storage. The results were 881 or 53.56 percent, “no” votes to 770, or 46.64 percent, “yes” votes, on question 2C.

Nov. 9, 2017, a status conference is held in the Castle and Maroon creek cases. The water court referee reiterates the need for the city to provide “substantive” responses to the summary of consultation by Dec. 29, 2017, and a status conference is set for Jan. 4, 2018.

Nov. 13, 2017, The Aspen City Council meets in executive session to discuss a number of water court cases it is involved in, including the Castle and Maroon cases: 14CW3096, application of Stillwater Ranch; 15CW3050, application of Twin Lakes; 15CW3110, application of Red Mountain Willoughby et al.; 16CW3063, application of Maroon Creek Club, LLC; Castle and Maroon Creek Diligence Cases 13CW3128 and 13CW3129 and 16CW3110 Hines Diligence case.

Nov. 14, 2017, During a work session, the Aspen City Council directs staff to use money from the Wheeler Opera House fund to buy the Woody Creek parcel next to the Woody Creek gravel pit, according to council member Bert Myrin. The issue was not on the work session agenda.

Nov. 15, 2017, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “State gives Aspen officials until Dec. 29 to answer dam questions.”

Nov. 17, 2017, the Aspen Daily News publishes a story headlined “Council moves to tap Wheeler fund for reservoir sit.” Aspen Public Radio features the topic during the second half of “Valley Round-up” the same day.

The second alternative in the Deere and Ault study shows a potential 8,000 AF reservoir, on both the gravel pit parcel and the WCDC parcel. Credit: City of Aspen/Deere and Ault

Dec. 11, 2017, the Aspen City Council approves, on a 4-to-1 vote, a resolution approving the use of $2,515,000 from the Wheeler Opera House fund to purchase two vacant parcels of land in Woody Creek, on a bench above the Roaring Fork River, for use as an off-channel dam and reservoir site.

Resolution 167 of 2017 states “the city council has evaluated these parcels to be the best existing alternative solution relative to current water storage rights held in the upper Castle and Maroon Creek valleys.”

A city memo states “the proposed resolution provides for an interfund advance of $2,515,000 between the Wheeler Opera House Fund and the Water Utility Fund. Said advance would equate to the remaining balance associated with the acquisition of the Woody Creek parcel as a future municipal water storage site.”

The resolution cites two account numbers, R003161 and R015286, in reference to the two parcels, both owned by Woody Creek Development Company of Fort Collins. One parcel is 61 acres and assessed at $2.3 million. The second is 1.8 acres and assessed at $100,000. The larger parcel is next to the gravel pit in Woody Creek. The smaller parcel is next to the Woody Creek post office on Upper River Road. The city council has had both properties under contract since July.

After the council’s regular meeting on Dec. 11, it voted to go into executive session for the purpose of discussing the “purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer, or sale of any real, personal, or other property interest,” to “conference with an attorney for the local public body for the purpose of receiving legal advice,” and for “determining positions relative to matters that may be subject to negotiation.”

Dec. 29, 2017, the city’s water attorney, Cynthia Covell, files a required “substantive” response with the water court, in the form of a Dec. 29 letter to the division engineer, a Dec. 7 letter from Deere & Ault stating the city requires 8,500 acre-feet of storage, a Nov. 30 water shortage-risk analysis from Headwaters Corp. and a Dec. 28 memo from the Aspen Global Change Institute stating storage can be considered an adaptive strategy in the face of climate change. The city has also recently made public an undated chart that compares “raw water storage in Colorado,” an undated study of in-situ storage options in the upper valley, and an undated FAQ document on conditional water storage rights.

Dec. 31, 2017, the Aspen Daily News names the Maroon Creek Reservoir and Castle Creek Reservoir rights one of the top-ten stories of the year: “Top stories of the year, No. 8: City water storage debate moves to Woody Creek.”

A detail of a map of the potential Castle Creek Reservoir, prepared by Wilderness Workshop and based on a map filed by the city with the state in 1965. The dam would be 170-feet-tall and 1,220 feet across the valley.

Jan 1, 2018, The Aspen Times publishes a story by Aspen Journalism entitled “Aspen officials say city needs to store 8,500 acre-feet of water as backup.”

Jan. 4, 2018, A status conference is held in the two water court cases. After hearing from all the parties that they are okay with leaving the case on the water court referee’s docket, the referee sets another status for Feb. 15.

Jan. 5, 2018, The Aspen Daily News publishes a story, “City dams case moves toward settlement,” The Aspen Times publishes a story by Aspen Journalism, “Aspen proposal would end chances of damming Castle, Maroon creeks,” and Aspen Journalism publishes a longer version of the story, which includes details of potential storage sites. Aspen Public Radio’s “Valley Round-up” features a discussion of the city’s water rights.

Jan. 6, 2018, the city of Aspen’s water department is now posting relevant documents on the city’s updated website, including a comparison of water storage in various Colorado cities and towns.

Feb. 13, 2018, the city of Aspen buys land in Woody Creek to use for potential reservoirs. The deeds for the land purchase were recorded with the Pitkin County clerk’s office on Feb. 13.

March 2, 2018, Aspen Journalism publishes a story about the city’s land purchase in Woody Creek.

May 8, 2018, a status conference is held in the two cases in front of the water court referee. The city must respond to opposer’s settlement proposals by June 1. The next status conference is set for June 29. Meanwhile, the City of Aspen’s two due diligence applications remain before the water court referee, in a quasi-administrative, non-trial-track status.

May 9, 2018, Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times report that city has reached agreement with one of the opposing parties in the dam cases.

May 24, 2018, A staff memo regarding stipulation agreements on the water rights is published by the city. The packet for a May 29 staff meeting also includes a proposed resolution.


The Aspen Daily News reports on the city council’s pending vote related to moving its move water rights out of Castle and Maroon creek valleys, as does The Aspen Times, Aspen Journalism, and Aspen Public Radio. APR’s story was headlined “Aspen agrees to never build dams on Castle and Maroon.”

May 24, 2018, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “City of Aspen reaches agreement with five parties on moving Maroon and Castle creek water rights.”

A map prepared for the City of Aspen that shows the five sites in the Roaring Fork River valley where the city of Aspen is proposing to store up to 8,500 acre-feet in water, based on its conditional rights to store water in the upper Maroon and Castle creek valleys. Credit: Source: City of Aspen

May 29, 2018, The Aspen city council votes unanimously to approve agreements with five opposing parties in the Castle and Maroon creek cases. Agreements have yet to be reached with the other five opposing parties.

The The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News each publish stories about the vote.

The city issues a press release with the headline, “City Council Votes to Support Moving Conditional Water Rights off Wilderness Areas.”

As of May 29 there were stipulation agreements signed by five parties. Three of those parties are in both the Castle and Maroon creek cases. Below is a list, with links to the agreements signed to date, and made public by the city.

There is also a draft degree included as Exhibit A to the agreements for both the Castle Creek stipulations and the Maroon Creek stipulations.

The Pitkin County stipulation is listed at the top, as it is the most restrictive of the stipulation agreements yet signed.

It eliminates the use of the county-owned Moore Open Space as a potential storage site, while the earlier agreements with other parties include it.

Pitkin County – Maroon Creek Reservoir
Pitkin County – Castle Creek Reservoir

Wilderness Workshop – Maroon Creek Reservoir
Wilderness Workshop – Castle Creek Reservoir

Western Resource Advocates – Maroon Creek Reservoir
Western Resource Advocates – Castle Creek Reservoir

Double R Cross Ltd – Castle Creek Reservoir

ASP Properties, LLC – Castle Creek Reservoir

The agreement signed by American Rivers, and Colorado Trout Unlimited, as of July 3, 2018, included a new paragraph of language related to Aspen’s next diligence filing.

American Rivers – Maroon Creek Reservoir
American Rivers – Castle Creek Reservoir

Trout Unlimited – Maroon Creek Reservoir
Trout Unlimited – Castle Creek Reservoir

May 30, 2018, Western Resource Advocates issues a press release about the city’s vote, with the headline, “Conservationists reach settlement with Aspen to permanently move water rights for dams out of Maroon & Castle Creeks.”

WRA is also encouraging people to sign a thank you card to the city of Aspen, saying “We’re celebrating a landmark agreement two years in the making: the City of Aspen has agreed not to build dams on Maroon and Castle Creeks!”

June 19, 2018, High Country News publishes an article with the headline, “Aspen may stockpile water under its golf course.” The article reported that Aspen city officials believe 1,200 acre-feet of water could be “injected into the underlying aquifer, or would reach it through a basin specifically designed to draw water underground.”

June 26, 2018, A status conference held in both the Castle and Maroon creek reservoir cases. Four more parties, American Rivers, Colorado Trout Unlimited, Roaring Fork Land & Cattle Co. and Larsen Family LP, tell the court they are moving toward settlement.

June 28, 2018, The Aspen Times publishes a story from Aspen Journalism about the status conference.

July 4, 2018, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “Aspen signs deals with American Rivers, Trout Unlimited to move Castle/Maroon dam rights.”

A 2016 rendering from Wilderness Workshop of a potential Maroon Creek Reservoir, which would hold 4,567 acre-feet of water behind a 155-foot-tall dam. The rendering was prepared by a professional hydrologist and is based on plans submitted to the state by the city 1965. Credit: Source: Wilderness Workshop

July 23, 2018, The United States of America signs stipulations with the city of Aspen in both the Castle and Maroon creek reservoir cases, according to James DuBois, an attorney with the U.S. Justice Dept. in Denver.

August 21, 2018, Cindy Covell, the water attorney for the city of Aspen, tells the water court referee during a status conference that the city has reached settlement agreements with all but one of the ten parties in the two cases, Larsen Family LP. The Aspen Times publishes a story by Aspen Journalism about the status conference.

August 22, 2018, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “Aspen settles Castle Creek Reservoir case, closing in on Maroon case.”

Aug. 27, 2018, City of Aspen files a motion to re-refer the Castle Creek Reservoir case to the water court judge. The water court referee responds by sending the Castle Creek Reservoir case and sending the Maroon Creek Reservoir case to the judge, which the city had not asked the referee to do.

Aug. 28, 2018, City of Aspen files a motion to approve the stipulations signed by the parties in the Castle Creek Reservoir case. Below are the signed stipulations in the Castle Creek case, as filed by the city with the court.


Pitkin County
Colorado Trout Unlimited
Western Resource Advocates
Wilderness Workshop
Double R Creek Ltd
ASP Properties LLC

Sept. 6, 2018, City of Aspen files a motion for the court to adopt a proposed decree in the Castle Creek Reservoir case. A case management conference has been set in the Castle Creek case for Oct. 30 at 8:15 a.m. for 15 minutes. A case management conference has been set in the Maroon Creek case for Nov. 15 at 1:30 p.m. for 30 minutes.

Oct. 16, 2018, City of Aspen announces it has reached agreement with all opposers in the Maroon Creek Reservoir case, along with the opposers in the Castle Creek Reservoir case. The Aspen Times runs a story by Aspen Journalism on the news. The Aspen Daily News also writes a story about the city’s announcement. The four environmental groups in the case also issue a press release, and schedule a celebratory event for Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Limelight hotel in Aspen.

Stipulations, and attached proposed decree, in Maroon Creek Reservoir case:

Motion from City of Aspen to approve stipulations
Pitkin County
United States for USFS
American Rivers
Western Resource Advocates
Colorado Trout Unlimited
Wilderness Workshop
Larsen Family LP
Roaring Fork Land and Cattle Co.

Oct. 17, 2018, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “Aspen officials finalize all agreements on Castle Creek and Maroon Creek dam cases.”

Oct. 30, 2018, Judge James Boyd, the water court judge in Div 5 water court in Glenwood Springs, holds his first case management conference in the Castle Creek Reservoir case, 16CW3129. In his “minute order” describing the case management conference, the judge states that the “court advises legal review may lead to briefing request.” According to two attorneys who participated in the conference call on the morning of Oct. 30 (not Nov. 1, as the minute order incorrectly has it), the judge said the case raised some “novel” issues. The next case management conference in the Castle Creek Reservoir case is set for Nov. 19.

Nov. 1, 2018, The City of Aspen files a corrected draft decree with the court, correcting the technical location description of the potential Castle Creek Reservoir and dam.

Nov. 21, 2018, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “Aspen makes progress in water court on moving Castle and Maroon water rights.”

Nov. 29, 2018, A case management conference is held in the two cases and Judge Boyd tells the city he needs additional information to make a finding on either diligence or need.

December 3, 2018, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “Judge wants more info from city of Aspen in Castle, Maroon dam cases.”

Near the potential Castle Creek dam site. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Jan. 25, 2019, A case management conference is held with the city’s water attorney, various city officials, attorneys for opposing parties, and an attorney representing the state engineer’s office, who is not a party in the case. The city’s water attorney, Cindy Covell, references a Jan. 18 status report she filed with the court, which cites the partial federal government shutdown as one reason why the city needs more time to file a revised proposed decree. The judge has asked the city to provide more information regarding its claims of both diligence and need, in both cases, and it’s not clear if a revised proposed decree will satisfy the judge’s request. The next status conference was set for March 22.

March 22, 2019, City of Aspen staff members release a memo to City Council on the “status of Aspen’s integrated water supply system.” It says the city plans to submit supplement information to water court about its diligence and need for the Castle and Maroon creek storage rights, in response to Judge Boyd’s request, on April 19. The memo also discusses drought plans, stream gages, climate research, and potential transfers of irrigation water.

A status conference in the two cases was also held on March 22. The next status conference is set for April 25.

Also on March 22, the city submitted a grant application to the Bureau of Reclamation for smart water meters, stating the new meters would save 50 acre-feet of treated water a year (and that the city uses about 3,000 AF a year of treated water).

April 19, 2019, the City of Aspen submits additional, if limited, information to the court at the judge’s request.

April 26, 2019, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “Aspen responds to judge’s request in Castle/Maroon dam cases.”

May 10, 2019, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “Judge in Castle Creek Reservoir case issues decree.”

June 11, 2019, Judge James Boyd approves decree in the Maroon Creek Reservoir case. In doing so, he also approved the city’s stipulations with other parties in the case. The stipulations state that ” … Aspen agrees that after entry of the final decree, it will not seek to retain any portion of the Maroon Creek Reservoir storage right at its original location … ” This means, in effect, the prospect of the City of Aspen ever building a 155-foot-tall dam below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks, as it has told the state since 1965 that it intends to do, is now over. The city, however, is now going to attempt to transfer the storage right to other locations near the Roaring Fork River.

June 12, 2019, Aspen Journalism publishes a story, “Possibility of City of Aspen dams on Castle and Maroon creeks eliminated.”

Brent Gardner-Smith

Brent Gardner-Smith, the founder of Aspen Journalism, and who served as AJ’s executive director until August 2021 and as editor from 2011-2020, is the news director at Aspen Public Radio. He's also been...