American Rivers to challenge Aspen in water court

Dec 26, 2016

Matt Rice with American Rivers says conditional water rights do not protect Maroon and Castle creeks.
Credit American Rivers

The City of Aspen has filed to keep conditional water rights on Castle and Maroon creeks because, council members say, the town may one day need water storage. The national advocacy group American Rivers plans to be one of several organizations that will oppose the city in water court.

The deadline to file a formal objection is the end of the month, and Matt Rice, the Colorado River basin director for American Rivers, thinks the public needs to better understand what these conditional rights actually mean.

“Conditional water rights can only be used for one thing, one thing alone right now, and that is to fill a 170-foot dam on Castle Creek and a 155-foot dam on Maroon Creek,” Rice said.

He said conditional rights do not protect the creeks from another entity filing for claims on that water, and such claims from government officials are misleading.

“Those water rights … can not be swept up by some other entity,” Rice said. “At one point there were hundreds of conditional water rights throughout the state and many have been abandoned in recent years by entities like the Colorado River District and Denver Water with absolutely no consequences.”

This is the first time that the city will face opposition as it files to keep the conditional water rights, which the municipal government has owned since 1971.