From The Aspen Times (Aaron Hedge):
The decision to extend the conversation comes after the city received a significant amount of feedback from residents who live along the stream saying the project will have disastrous effects on the ecosystem there…
Mayor Mick Ireland decided to postpone the vote after the City Council visited the site of the proposed hydropower building on Thursday. “There’s several people … who have approached us about having a stakeholder’s process” to find a middle ground between the city and residents who are opposed to the initiative, Ireland said. The city’s utilities department drew Maroon Creek down to 14 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Tuesday, which is the level Castle Creek will run at for about six months of the year if the project is approved. The average level the stream runs at currently is about 50 cfs, but it plummets to about 14 cfs for the months of February and March. At peak runoff, it holds up to 975 cfs…
Aspen officials say the health of the stream will remain intact, citing a city-commissioned environmental impact study of Castle Creek done by Bill Miller, of Miller Environmental Consultants. The study concluded that the stream would remain healthy as long as it doesn’t go below 13.3 cfs…
The project would take 25 cfs from 2 1/2 miles of Castle Creek and 27 cfs from Maroon Creek. All that water would return to Castle Creek about 300 feet above its merging point with the Roaring Fork River.
More coverage from The Aspen Times (Aaron Hedge):
The main incentive the city cites in building the hydropower plant is that it would save the city from paying energy fees to a Nebraska power authority. The project, they say, would localize Aspen’s energy economy and move it closer to its goal of becoming completely carbon-neutral. But City Manager Steve Barwick said if the city were to divert less water from Castle Creek than originally planned — not letting it go below 19 cfs — the project would still have a huge economic benefit. The city has already spent about $400,000 on the project, building a drainline from Thomas Reservoir that would feed the power turbines, as well as purchasing the turbines for the power plant, which would be located under the Highway 82 bridge that spans Castle Creek on Power Plant Road.
More coverage from the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):
What the city hasn’t put off is developing infrastructure for the project, which still requires a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as land use approval by the City Council.
The penstock — a steel reinforced pipe that would carry water from Thomas Reservoir to the hydro plant’s turbine — has been under construction all summer. City officials maintain, however, that the pipe also serves as an emergency drainline for Thomas Reservoir, which has more water coming into it than could be drained if something happened to the dam. That project is costing the city $2.3 million.
In addition, the city already has ordered the turbine which would generate the power at the yet-to-be-approved “Castle Creek Energy Center,” public works director Phil Overeynder told council at Monday’s meeting. He has said previously that the turbine costs $1.4 million, which includes a pressure releasing valve.