As many of you know, the federal government approved Over The River in late 2011 following a rigorous three-year environmental analysis.
In 2012, the installation schedule was temporarily postponed because of three legal challenges filed against the government agencies that granted permits to the project. Favorable rulings have been issued on two of those legal challenges and the only one yet to be ruled on is in federal court.
These kinds of delays are not new to Christo. He will identify the exhibition date when the legal process is successfully resolved.
The Arkansas River Wins Gold
Christo and the Over The River team were pleased to learn that a more than 100-mile stretch of the Arkansas River has been recognized for its Gold Medal Trout Waters. For over 20 years, Christo has been actively working to preserve and enhance the Valley’s remarkable beauty and believes this Gold Medal designation is well-deserved.
Now, the group opposed to Over The River is trying to use this recognition as an opportunity to delay the project. But asking for more study of issues that were already meticulously analyzed and commented on during a nearly three year public process is nothing more than another unfortunate delay tactic.
Christo requested the federal government’s most rigorous environmental analysis, an EIS, to evaluate all the project’s potential impacts and benefits. Because of more than 100 mitigation measures identified during this process, no “Significant Impacts” to any wildlife (terrestrial, avian or aquatic) were found as a result of Over The River.
In fact, although water and at least 40% of light will pass through the fabric panels, the EIS found that “shade is an important habitat parameter for trout” and the temporary fabric panels “would not adversely affect the ecological or physiological functions of trout species.” During installation, many carefully developed design features will limit river sediment input to levels so negligible the EIS found them to be a “minor level impact on aquatic species and their habitat.”
At the end of the day, the Gold Medal designation doesn’t change the EIS findings. Instead, it reinforces the significant steps being taken by Over The River to preserve this prized trout fishing river.
Improving the Valley’s Wildlife Habitat
Years before any project installation begins, Over The River mitigation measures are already providing long-term benefits for the Valley’s bighorn sheep.
Christo committed to pay for a number of projects that benefit bighorn sheep, including creating a new wildlife corridor that had been identified by experts as a habitat enhancement for the sheep and funding a two-year collaring and monitoring program as part of the EIS mitigation requirement.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently acknowledged that these projects have been successfully completed. Christo is pleased to have made a significant contribution to improving the habitat for the official state animal.