Opponents of Aspen’s proposal to build reservoirs up two pristine mountain valleys are cheering a move by the city to acquire a potential alternative water-storage location.

The city said in a news release this week that it has contracted to buy two adjacent parcels totaling about 63 acres in Woody Creek near Aspen for $2.65 million. The goal would be to transfer storage rights currently decreed for proposed locations on Castle and Maroon creeks.

The city has held those conditional water rights since the 1960s and has filed to keep the rights for another six years. The long-proposed reservoirs would involve dams 155 and 170 feet high, swamping more than 200 acres between them. One would be within view of the rugged, twin 14,000-foot Maroon Bells mountains, which are a big draw for photographers and scenery-seekers visiting the Aspen area.

The reservoirs also would flood part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area.

Now the city is doing due diligence on the Woody Creek parcels, looking at environmental, hydrologic and geologic issues. If it buys the land it would begin engineering for an excavated reservoir or an underground storage project.

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