Aspen: Opponents of the proposed hydroelectric plant hope to install stream gages on Maroon and Castle creeks to bolster their argument


From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

A stream gauge suitable for inclusion in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) system cost between $20,000 and $35,000 to install, depending on the site, and $16,000 a year to operate. Saving Our Streams, a recently formed nonprofit that is challenging the city’s proposed hydro plant, wants at least one gauge on both Castle and Maroon creeks in order to keep an eye on how much water is left in the streams below the city’s diversion dams. Maureen Hirsch of Saving of Streams has contacted federal officials with the USGS, who have agreed to make a site visit this winter to the Aspen area…

For Our Rivers and Renewables, a new initiative from the Aspen-based Public Counsel of the Rockies, also wants gauges on those two streams. The group also is calling for new gauges on the Roaring Fork River in Aspen, on Hunter Creek and on the lower Crystal River. “It’s time to get the Roaring Fork River basin properly gauged,” said Tim McFlynn of Public Counsel for the Rockies. “It’s shockingly overdue.”

But the expense of doing so can be shocking as well. To install five streamflow gauges up to the standards of the USGS and to cover 10 years of operations and maintenance on them could cost $900,000…

Bill Blakeslee, the state water commissioner charged with managing local water diversions, said gauges are the best way to solve water disputes. “Anybody can produce a study, but without a consistent measuring device in the stream, everybody is just kind of blowing smoke,” he said. But Blakeslee warned that enthusiasm for new gauges tends to wane when it comes to paying for the ongoing maintenance and operational costs of them, which are prone to freezing up in the winter and need to be routinely checked.

Leaders from both Share Our Streams and For Our Rivers and Renewables say they are seeking funding for gauges from both private and public sources. Share Our Streams’ members include two billionaires and several other wealthy homeowners on Castle and Maroon creeks. Hirsch said one member already has agreed to fund one gauge.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

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