Judge Issues Final Legal Ruling Ending the City of Aspen’s Water Storage Cases

The City of Aspen holds conditional water rights tied to a potential 155-foot-tall dam that would flood a scenic meadow with dramatic views of the Maroon Bells. The city is seeking a diligence ruling on those rights, which it then intends to transfer to other locations. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release:

[On June 11, 2019], Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, and American Rivers welcomed news that a water judge has issued a final decree in the Maroon Creek case, marking the end of the court cases considering Aspen’s rights for water storage. In October 2018, the conservation organizations celebrated the completion of agreements to permanently abandon Aspen’s plans to build dams on Maroon and Castle creeks. Under the agreements, Aspen will now pursue more sustainable water supply alternatives, while protecting important wildlife and recreation areas, including portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area.

“This final decree marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration to safeguard the Maroon Bells Wilderness and Maroon and Castle creeks,” said Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois. “The city of Aspen should be commended for its efforts to pursue water supply alternatives that will ensure future demands are met without sacrificing our rivers and cherished natural landscapes. As growing cities across the West seek sustainable and affordable ways to provide water in the face of climate change, we encourage them to follow Aspen’s lead.”

“The judge’s final decree cements over two years of collaborative work to find a win-win solution that both protects Castle and Maroon creeks in two of the regions most beloved Valleys, and ensures a sustainable future water supply for the City of Aspen,” said Will Roush, executive director of the Wilderness Workshop. “Water can be one of the most contentious issues in the west and I’m proud of our community for coming together to find a solution that benefits both people and place. Our wilderness and public lands deserve to be kept largely free of damaging developments like dams and I’m grateful to the City of Aspen for their work and commitment not only to providing water but also to protecting our environment and public lands.”

“The judge’s final decree ensures that the Maroon and Castle dams are dead. This is a big day for Colorado, the city of Aspen, and for all people that appreciate free-flowing rivers,” said Matt Rice, Colorado River Basin director for American Rivers. “This collaborative outcome demonstrates that Coloradans can protect rivers while planning for a water scarce future.”

Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, and several other parties, including Pitkin County and the U.S. Forest Service, opposed the city’s plans to dam Maroon and Castle creeks. After extensive negotiations, the conservation organizations, the city, and other opposers were all able to reach agreements requiring the city to relocate its water rights and permanently abandon plans to build reservoirs with dams on Castle and Maroon creeks, regardless of whether the city is successful in moving these rights to alternative locations. The city of Aspen played a critical role in helping find solutions to protect the two creeks while maintaining an important source of water for the community.

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