May 24, 2018 – Wilderness Workshop and Western Resource Advocates have signed agreements that would result in the City of Aspen relocating its water rights, which currently would allow reservoirs with dams on Castle and Maroon Creeks. The documents are the product of extensive negotiations between conservationists and the City, and were included in materials sent to the City Council for final approval on Tuesday, May 30. Once the City resolves all opposition in the cases, the City will seek to move a portion of its water rights to a suite of more environmentally friendly water storage locations within and downstream of Aspen city limits, including a site near the gravel quarry at Woody Creek. Importantly, once the agreement is in effect, the City commits to completely abandoning the Castle Creek and Maroon Creek storage locations for its water rights, regardless of whether it is successful in moving these rights to alternative locations.
“This collaborative agreement enables Aspen to preserve its region’s unique environment, wildlife habitat, and the iconic Maroon Bells, while also planning for its future water needs,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, President, Western Resource Advocates. “By setting itself on a course to forgo the Maroon and Castle Creek dams, Aspen is showing once again that it is a global environmental leader willing to enact progressive policies that mutually benefit both Aspen residents and their unparalleled environment. This is a great example of how communities throughout the Colorado River basin can leverage smart water alternatives to sustain the health of our rivers and our quality of life, while also planning for future growth.”
“City staff and council deserve a lot of credit for the work to get to this agreement. Like so many of us who live here, they value the environment and want to see the water and lands surrounding our community protected and thriving,” said Will Roush, Conservation Director at Wilderness Workshop. “Free-flowing, healthy rivers, and the wildlife and recreation they support, are foundational to Aspen’s economy, community and ecology. After numerous conversations with the folks at the City, I’m confident this is a win-win solution that protects both Castle and Maroon Creeks and Aspen’s long term water supply.”
“City Councils over the decades have worked to preserve Aspen water customers’ water supply, including storage options now and into the future,” said Mayor of Aspen Steve Skadron. “We are pleased that we could achieve a solution with Wilderness Workshop and Western Resource Advocates, and hopefully all the parties invested in a mutually successful outcome, that protects pristine areas of wilderness while still prioritizing Aspen’s water needs for the coming decades. It is important that government and interest groups continue to work cooperatively in order to reach solutions that serve our community to the best of our ability. We are grateful for the productive dialogue we’ve had over the last year and value the voices of all those in this process.”
If the City also settles with the other water court opposers in both cases, the plans will become binding upon Aspen and ensure the proposed dams on Castle and Maroon Creeks will not be built. This settlement represents a highly successful collaboration between the City of Aspen, Wilderness Workshop, and Western Resource Advocates to meet Aspen’s water needs while protecting the environment and health of the Roaring Fork River.
If built, the dams proposed for Maroon and Castle Creeks would have significantly impacted the ecology of the two high mountain creeks and flooded important wildlife and recreation areas in and adjacent to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, forever changing two of the most iconic valleys in Colorado. Wilderness Workshop and Western Resource Advocates are also collaborating with the City to increase Aspen’s water supply and flexibility through alternative strategies.
Western Resource Advocates works to protect the West’s land, air, and water so that our communities thrive in balance with nature. WRA’s team of scientists, lawyers, and economists craft and implement innovative solutions to the most complex natural resource challenges in the region. For more information visit www.westernresourceadvocates.org and follow us on Twitter @WRADV.
Wilderness Workshop is dedicated to preservation and conservation of the wilderness and natural resources of the White River National Forest and adjacent public lands. WW engages in research, education, legal advocacy and grassroots organizing to protect the ecological integrity of local landscapes and public lands. WW is the oldest environmental nonprofit in the Roaring Fork Valley, dating back to 1967 with a membership base of over 800. Learn more at http://www.wildernessworkshop.org/.