Aspen’s Proposed Dams, Reservoirs Near The Maroon Bells Draw Opposition

Aspen is running into opposition over water rights near the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Pitkin County commissioners voted 3-2 to oppose Aspen’s move to renew conditional water rights tied to potential dams and reservoirs in the scenic valleys of Maroon Creek and Castle Creek.

According to the Aspen Daily News, officials at American Rivers and the U.S. Forest Service have also indicated they will file opposition statements. And the Aspen Times reports that Wilderness Workshop is also challenging the dams.

The City of Aspen originally filed for the rights in 1965, and has periodically renewed them. Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman says the goal is to require an in-depth study and ultimately move away from the conditional permits

“With us opposing this application, I think that just ensures that these studies and these solutions will happen in the next few years,” he said.

The Maroon Creek dam and reservoir would stand 155-feet tall be on Forest Service land and flood part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness to hold 4,567 acre-feet of water.

The Castle Creek structure would be 170 feet tall and store about 9,062 acre-feet of water a few miles down the valley from the ghost town of Ashcroft on both public and private land.

Stakeholders have until the end of the year to file statements of opposition in District 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs. And Aspen officials say that despite renewing the rights, they are not ready to build any dams any time soon.