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City Council Votes to Support Moving Conditional Water Rights off Wilderness Areas
The Aspen City Council voted unanimously at its meeting tonight, May 29, to approve a resolution supporting settlements reached with several opposers to Aspen’s two pending water court cases regarding its storage rights on Castle and Maroon Creeks. The resolution is a result of negotiations between the City and several parties over the proposed sites of the future reservoirs.If similar settlements are reached with all of the opposing parties in the two cases, Aspen will file a water court application to transfer both its water storage rights to one or more locations that are not in wilderness areas including city-owned land in the Woody Creek area, the Aspen Golf Course, Cozy Point Ranch, Zoline Open Space, Vagneur Gravel Quarry and/or any other location agreed to in writing between the City and the parties opposing the current cases. Aspen has held its conditional water storage rights on Maroon Creek and Castle Creek since 1965. Over decades, Aspen City Council has diligently protected its water storage rights to be responsible stewards of the water supply needed for Aspen’s utility customers, now and into the future. In 2016, as required by law, Aspen filed applications with the Division 5 Water Court to continue these conditional water storage rights for another six-year period. A total of ten parties filed statements of opposition to one or both applications. The City of Aspen has been working diligently with the opposing parties to reach mutually agreeable settlements of these lawsuits.“This is a great example illustrating that collaboration and working toward common goals created a water storage solution that is better for all parties involved,” said Margaret Medellin, City of Aspen Utilities Portfolio Manager. “There is great reason to celebrate when you begin a process at opposite ends of the spectrum and end the process in agreement. Assuming settlements are reached with all opposers, this is a big win for the community.”City Council’s vote signals its support for the stipulations that have been agreed to by Pitkin County, Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, and two landowners in the Castle Creek drainage area – Asp Properties LLC. and Double R Creek LLC. - in the Castle Creek drainage area. If the other opposing parties agree to similar stipulations, the pending cases will be finalized, and Aspen will begin the process of developing a water court application to change the location of the storage rights to one or more sites outside of the Wilderness Area. In addition, the overall amount of water that may be stored annually will be reduced to 8,500 acre-feet.As reported last week, the City is proud of its partnerships with opposers Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, Pitkin County and the landowners, all of whom have worked diligently with Aspen to reach a positive outcome from their standpoint while respecting Aspen’s need to protect its water storage rights."It’s great to see City Council approve these documents that would pave the way to permanently move their water rights for dams out of Castle and Maroon Creeks," said Will Roush, Conservation Director at the Wilderness Workshop. “The two dams would have caused significant ecological harm to designated wilderness and important stream habitat. The City staff and council deserve tremendous credit for all their work with us to find a solution that allows the City to continue working on its long term water plans while protecting these two spectacular creeks. Today’s vote means we’re almost there.”Throughout this process, the City’s primary concern has been to safeguard its water storage rights to meet the needs of its water customers with a sufficient, legal, and reliable water supply, now and into the future, despite future risks and uncertainty, most notably from climate change.“We are pleased to join with the City of Aspen and Wilderness Workshop on this collaborative agreement to preserve the Aspen area’s unique environment, wildlife habitat, and the iconic Maroon Bells," said Jon Goldin-Dubois, President, Western Resource Advocates. “This resolution passed by the City Council once again highlights Aspen’s environmental leadership and shows how communities throughout the Colorado River basin can leverage smart water alternatives to sustain the health of our rivers and our quality of life.”###