American Rivers Files Statement of Opposition Against Aspen’s Application for Conditional Water Rights

December 28, 2016

December 28, 2016

Contact: Matthew Moseley, (303) 887 -0826

Aspen should instead use this as an opportunity to forever protect  Maroon and Castle creeks from dams

ASPEN, CO — Today American Rivers filed a Statement of Opposition with the Colorado Water Court to an application by The City of Aspen to continue conditional water rights to pursue two large dams at the foot of the Maroon Bells and on Castle Creek near Ashcroft. The proposed 155-foot dam on Maroon Creek and 175-foot dam on Castle Creek would flood portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, forever changing the iconic and world-renowned valleys. Aspen’s own 2016 water availability report clearly states that Aspen does not need these dams.

Matt Rice, director of the Colorado River Basin Program, made the following statement:

“Aspen does not need these dams for municipal water supply, climate resiliency, or for stream protection – now or at any time in the foreseeable future. Why not come up with a solution that does not involve dams?  If the city were to determine sometime in the future that new storage is needed, reservoirs that flood wilderness on Castle and Maroon Creeks would be the last place in the valley they would consider. We believe the best time to get bad projects off the books is as early as possible and this diligence filing is that opportunity for the city to do so.”

Dave Nickum, the executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited also made a statement:

“We hope that Aspen will take this opportunity to work with stakeholders on better solutions for its water future. Building dams on free-flowing streams in one of Colorado’s most iconic wilderness areas is the last approach we should be taking to meet water needs in the 21st Century. It is time to look forward toward new strategies, instead of relying on flawed ideas from the past.”

Conditional is the crucial word here. According to the Colorado Standards for Due Diligence and Colorado Water Law, the City of Aspen can only possess these rights on the condition they develop the dams. That is what the water right was granted for in 1965. If the city does not renew these rights they simply vanish. No one else can claim these water rights. There are many examples of entities giving up such conditional water rights, most notably Denver Water on the Eagle River Project and the Colorado River District canceling conditional water rights on the Crystal River.

Organizations including American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, Western Resource Advocates, Wilderness Workshop and others are engaged because they want to preserve Castle and Maroon Creeks for future generations–a value that we believe is shared by the City of Aspen. The Pitkin County Board of Commissioners and the U.S. Forest Service are also opposing Aspen’s application.

See Facebook page here with a petition:


American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 250,000 members, supporters and volunteers.

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