City staff supports diligence filing while environmental community is opposed

Building dams in the upper reaches of the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys may seem unthinkable to many in the environmental community, but city of Aspen water managers are asking for elected officials’ blessing to preserve the conditional water rights to do just that as a hedge against climate change.

The city since 1971 has held conditional water rights to build the Castle and Maroon dams, which would hold 9,000 acre-feet of water behind a 170-foot-tall dam and 4,600 acre-feet behind a 150-foot-tall dam, respectively. Both reservoirs would reach into federally designated wilderness areas, while a portion of the Maroon dam itself, just below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks, would be located in a wilderness area.

Water law requires holders of conditional water rights to complete diligence filings every six years. The city’s deadline to file in order to keep alive the ability to build the dams is October 31.

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