Pitkin County gets another 60 days to settle objectors to their Roaring Fork RICD application


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

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), two major upstream diverters and three billionaires with property near Aspen have active statements of opposition on file against the county’s proposal.

On Feb. 1, Judge James B. Boyd of Division 5 water court in Glenwood Springs gave the parties in the case another 60 days to settle.

The county is seeking the right to run between 240 and 1,350 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water over two rock and concrete structures it plans to build in the river, at a cost of about $1 million, which includes a stairway to access the feature. The new water right would be what’s known as a “recreational in-channel diversion,” or RICD, which is a program that allows governments to obtain a water right for recreational purposes. It can have the added benefit of keeping more water in a river.

The structures would form two waves for kayakers and other boaters in the Fork, just across Two Rivers Road from the entrance to the Elk Run neighborhood.

The county so far has come to terms with three of the 14 parties that originally filed statements of opposition in the case — the city of Aspen, the Basalt Water Conservancy District and the Starwood Metropolitan District.

Of the remaining 11 entities, at least three are controlled by billionaires who own property upstream of the proposed “Pitkin County River Park.”

Bill Koch (via Elk Mountain Lodge LLC) and Penny Pritzker (via PT Ranch Barn LLC) each own property along Castle Creek, and Ed Bass (via Mountain Valley Cabin LLC) owns property on the banks of the upper Roaring Fork.

Another opposing entity is GRE II LLC, which is controlled by David Gerstenhaber of Argonaut Capital Management, a New York hedge fund. GRE II owns 37 acres of land, with water rights, on Star Mesa above McLain Flats Road.

Statements of opposition in water court are typically formulaic and it is not easy to discern a party’s true intent in filing them. Some parties file statements simply to monitor changes in a case…

The latest draft proposal from the county has the water right stepping up and then back down across a 142-day runoff season.

Beginning on April 15, the water right would run for 33 days at 240 cfs, another 24 days at 380 cfs, and then for 15 days at 1,530 cfs, ending June 25.

Then the flows step down from the peak — with 56 days flowing at 380 cfs and another 14 days at 240 cfs, ending Labor Day.

More Roaring Fork Watershed coverage here.

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