In a lawsuit filed last Thursday ‘Saving Our Streams’ is claiming the the City of Aspen has effectively abandoned their hydroelectric power generation right on Castle and Maroon creeks

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From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail):

Saving Our Streams, an environmental organization whose stated mission is to support local streams and to ensure that diversions of water do not compromise the health of fragile ecosystems, filed the lawsuit. The group was formed in February.

The lawsuit, which seeks to stop the city from moving forward with plans for a hydroelectric plant, was not unexpected. One of the plaintiffs, Aspen businessman Dick Butera, suggested during a City Council meeting in late June that it was likely.

Other plaintiffs are: Yasmine Depagter, Maureen Hirsch, Joseph and Sheila Cosniac, Kit Goldsbury, Elk Mountain Lodge LLC, Crystal LLC, American Lake LLC, Ashcroft LLC, B&C LLC and the Bruce E. Carlson Trust. They all own property along or adjacent to the creeks.

More coverage from Curtis Wackerle writing for the Aspen Daily News. From the article:

The suit, filed Thursday on behalf of 11 plaintiffs, claims the city has “abandoned” its water rights for hydropower. The six-page complaint, filed in state water court in Glenwood Springs by Aspen attorneys Paul Noto and Danielle Luber, cites the decommissioning of the city’s original Castle Creek hydropower station, which was in use from about 1893 until 1958. “Aspen has shown its intent to abandon the hydropower use decreed [to the Castle and Maroon creek water rights] by not using the water right for this purpose for over 50 years,” the complaint says…

City officials said the suit is without merit. Cynthia Covell, a Denver lawyer who works on water rights issues for the city, was out of town Thursday, but she has looked into questions on the validity of the city’s water rights for hydropower in the past.

“We are confident that our water rights have not been abandoned,” City Attorney John Worcester said, adding that discussions about developing hydropower again on Castle Creek “have been kicked around for the 20-plus years I’ve been here.”

The city has 20 days to respond to the suit.

The city’s water rights on the creeks date back to the 1880s in some cases. The lawsuit cites three separate water rights — the Castle Creek Flume Ditch, the Midland Flume Ditch and the Maroon Ditch — that together account for 160 cfs on Castle Creek and 65 cfs on Maroon Creek, that the city is entitled to use for domestic and hydropower purposes, among other municipal uses. These are the water rights that the city uses for its drinking water…

Saving Our Streams, a nonprofit group started by Maureen Hirsch and Yasmine Depagter, is listed as a plaintiff, as are Hirsch and Depagter individually. The other plaintiffs are: Dick Butera, Joseph and Sheila Cosniac, Kit Goldsbury, the Bruce E. Carlson Trust, B&C LLC, Elk Mountain Lodge LLC, Crystal LLC, Ashcroft LLC and American Lake LLC. The Bruce E. Carlson Trust and B&C LLC own property on Maroon Creek…

“It’s an open mystery why someone would be concerned about water being diverted eight miles downstream from them,” Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said, noting that the water the city would take for the hydro plant would return to the river about two miles downstream after passing through the penstock and turbine.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.