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Industrial Arts Impact on Scenic Colorado Prompts Citizens Lawsuit

Artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, “Christo”, famous for suspending huge curtains of orange fabric over bridges, buildings and other public spaces throughout the world, has embarked on yet another art project. Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude have targeted Colorado for a second time (the first time being in 1972) with plans to hang silvery, translucent fabric over the Arkansas River for two weeks in August 2014 for their “Over the River” project. Their original plan entailed a 42-mile stretch of river, however the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed to an approximately 6 mile area.
Unfortunately for Christo, his vision has been met with opposition as the citizens group “Rags Over the Arkansas River” (ROAR) and two fly-fishing businesses, The Arkansas River Fly Shop and ArkAnglers, filed a lawsuit July 22, 2011 in Denver District Court. They are opposing the artist’s project pointing out the possible adverse impact on park values and requirement of a state permit.
The feared environmental harms would potentially impact wildlife including the bighorn sheep population, birds and elk, not to mention an unfavorable impact to fishing, rafting and other popular activities along this scenic river.
ROAR claims that in order to support the cables and fabric, Over the River would have to use heavy industrial equipment to drive thousands of industrial rock bolts into the canyon walls all the while damaging public lands and resources, not to mention creating noise, dust and causing hundreds of highway closures.
In June, an agreement with park officials was approved pending the Bureau of Land Management granting a federal permit. In exchange, Christo’s team would pay $550,000 in fees and expenses. The Colorado Wildlife Commission initially opposed the project before legislation married the two agencies.
While the BLM was analyzing the project over the last several years, it received thousands of public comments prompting an $11million dollar study paid for by Christo out of his approximately $50 million dollar budget. The BLM’s final Environmental Impact Statement addresses the various wildlife and traffic concerns over the narrow 2-lane canyon highway during the five year project’s construction and demolition.
Opponents state that they will continue to fight the project because of the devastation they foresee occurring to this area.
To read the BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement go to:http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/rgfo/planning/otr/otr_final_eis/otr_final_eis_documents.html

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