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Christo will seek full EIA for OTR from BLM

Brief by Central Staff

Christo – July 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “Over the River” project may be delayed, revised, or even denied, as the artists pursue a more thorough environmental review of their proposal to stretch draped cables across the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City.

Instead of getting an “environmental assessment,” the artists will pursue a full-bore “Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)” which is more thorough and naturally takes longer to prepare.

This came about after the Bureau of Land Management — the federal agency in charge of reviewing the project — advised the artists that there were too many issues to be addressed in an assessment, which was unlikely to produce a finding of “no significant impact.”

“We were telling them it wasn’t looking good,” BLM planning and environmental coordinator Pete Zwaneveid told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “We know we have problems with the bighorn sheep, bald eagles, and congestion on the highway.”

So the artists asked to halt the assessment and start a full environmental impact statement to insure those issues were addressed. It could add a year — Over the River is currently scheduled for 2009 — and even longer if there’s an appeal.

The BLM began reviewing the project back in 1996, but Christo asked that it be halted so he could pursue other projects, such as “the Gates” in New York’s Central Park. When he resumed work on Over the River last year, the BLM resumed its assessment.

With an EIS, the artists can propose solutions to any identified problems, so it might be to their advantage, Zwaneveid explained.

One major concern, according to the BLM, is the bighorn sheep population on the north side of the river. If the sheep shy away from the Arkansas on account of the fabric, “they could die of thirst,” Zwaneveid said.