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Christo's Colorado 'Over the River' project wins federal approval

November 8, 2011 | 12:55 pm

Christo colorado

There are many ways to measure the massiveness of “Over the River,” the project that artist Christo is championing for Colorado's Arkansas River Valley.

Amount of fabric: 5.9 miles.

Cost: Up to $50 million.

Size of environmental impact statement: 1,686 pages.

Or you could take note of the frenzy the project has stirred up.

Christo has proposed suspending silvery fabric in segments over 42 miles of the Arkansas River. If approved, the installation will take about two years to build and open for two weeks in the summer of 2014. Proponents said it would draw as many as 400,000 visitors to the picturesque region, some of them before the opening, the Denver Post reported.

But the proposal split the state’s environmental activists, some of whom balked at the possibilities of heavy traffic and harm to local Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Colorado’s state animal. Christo, who once set up 1,760 giant yellow umbrellas in California's Tejon Pass, is no stranger to the tumult that public art sometimes stirs. Last year, when asked about the "Over the River" controversy, Christo told The Times: “By discussing the work of art they become part of the work of art. They make it more important.”

This week, federal environmental regulators signed off on “Over the River,” which now awaits approval from two counties and state transportation officials, the Post said. "This is the first time in history that a work of art had an environmental impact statement — an enormous feat,” a jubilant Christo told the paper.


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Image: A drawing of a section of the Arkansas River in southern Colorado that artist Christo would drape with material.