Letter to the Editor - Ben Larsen, Bob Long, Eva Larsen Chilson, Marcella Larsen, Wendy Urschel Larsen

Vote to pull the plug on wilderness dams

There are many reasons to oppose the incumbents in the upcoming May 2 city election. These include: support for Ordinance 19 allowing 60-plus foot buildings (Art); opposition to Referendum 1, curtailing council’s abusive use of variances (Ann, Art and Steve); support for Base2, which included variances 2.5 times underlying zoning plus waiver of parking and affordable housing mitigation (Ann, Art and Steve); and, most recently, an attempt to upzone the protected view planes with buildings not allowed now, up to 18 feet (Ann, Art).

But one of the big issues of these next several decades is about responsible water management and council’s blind pursuit of extra-jurisdictional dams in wilderness areas. City politicians knew about the (formerly secret) dam plan back in 2012, when the Aspen Daily News ran an editorial calling to get the dams off the books. What did elected officials do since then? They kept pursuing the dams. So far those incumbents running for office (Ann, Art and Steve) have refused to disavow the dams, despite every reason and opportunity to do so.

Our family has owned property in the Maroon Creek valley since the 1940s.  We have never objected to a city of Aspen water court filing before. Yet we felt compelled to when council adopted Resolution No. 141-2016, which said it “can and will” develop dams in the White River National Forest and the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

We filed an objection in water court against this inappropriate, environmentally damaging industrialization of our public lands. We’re also aware the city’s own studies showed they don’t need these dams. We feel maintaining water rights that can be used only to dam wilderness is completely antithetical to community values.

We’ve tried to maintain good relationships with and usually support progressive politicians. We reached out to incumbent candidates for city council to try to convince them that damming the Maroon Bells was a bad idea. As participants in the ongoing water court proceeding, we also made a settlement offer that would have allowed the city to maintain significant storage rights but required the city to move them off public lands. We received no response to our generous offer.

Instead, the city is proceeding with a “process” that should disturb all Aspen voters and taxpayers. It includes: (1) acknowledged costs of at least $300,000, not including attorneys’ litigation fees (when was a city cost estimate not too low?), (2) the city’s attempt to justify its dams with unsupportable Armageddon-type climate change projections, (3) disturbing expert witness shopping to contradict its prior studies showing the city doesn’t need these dams.

If you care about federal lands and don’t want destructive dams built up Castle and Maroon creeks, please vote for Torre, Ward or Skippy. Each of these candidates has represented he would stand on principle and never dam the Maroon Bells.

Ben Larsen
Bob Long
Eva Larsen Chilson
Marcella Larsen
Wendy Urschel Larsen
Aspen and Boca Raton, Fla.

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