Industrial Art Project Threatens Arkansas River Fisheries
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently being challenged in court over its issuing a Record of Decision approving artist Christo’s application to construct a landscape-scale art project along 42 miles of the Arkansas River in Colorado. Despite the agency’s conclusion that the project will have a significant adverse impact on angler access and fishery health, the BLM authorized the Over the River Corporation to begin construction on the art installation in the summer of 2012. Through KeepAmericaFishing™, hundreds of anglers voiced their concerns on the project to Colorado Governor Hickenlooper and U.S. Interior Secretary Salazar.
Despite federal clearance, Christo's project is not yet in the clear. Opponents of the project, including local anglers, have filed state and federal law suits to prevent final approval. Rags Over Arkansas River (ROAR), a local organization fighting the industrial project, is currently challenging construction of Christo's project with a federal lawsuit, claiming that the BLM did not adequately evaluate the project's environmental impact. In July, 2012, U.S. District Judge John Kane issued a “commence no action” on Christo’s project until the federal appeal comes to conclusion. The artist, Christo, has publically stated that he will have to postpone his current August 2015 exhibition deadline until the three pending legal cases are resolved.
The Over the River industrial art project involves draping 6 miles of cloth over portions of a 42-mile stretch of Colorado's Arkansas River, which is a haven for anglers, boaters and home to a diverse population of fish and wildlife. The artist, Christo, is known for his large-scale temporary art installations that often require several years to put in place. Over the River will be so large that this is the first time that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has ever been prepared for an art project. According to the BLM’s final EIS, Over the River will have a significant adverse impact on recreational fishing on the river. The project also poses threats to other activities and to fish and wildlife populations.
The project will disrupt angler access for a minimum of three years, especially during the spring and summer seasons when recreational fishing on the river is at its highest. Among the many negative environmental impacts of the project cited in the BLM's EIS study are:
- The two year installation of the project will require large machinery, producing localized noise and air pollution that will significantly diminish the quality of recreational fishing and all outdoor activities on the river.
- To install the fabric supports and anchors, the 9,100 large holes must be drilled in and alongside the river and the majority of these anchors will be left behind after the project has concluded.
- The large machines that will be drilling these holes require industrial chemicals to operate and maintain, putting fish and other wildlife at greater risk.
- Sedimentation, the removal of plants from the river and its banks and the high vibration and noise levels from construction equipment will impact aquatic wildlife and alter fish behavior and distribution.
This temporary art project is anticipated to be on exhibit for only two weeks in 2014, but it will have enduring negative impacts on anglers, boaters and the fish and wildlife populations in the Arkansas River.
KeepAmericaFishing™ thanks all its supporters who voiced their concerns about this project and wants to let you know that the fight isn't over yet. Rags Over Arkansas River (ROAR), a local organization fighting the industrial project, is "dedicated to preserving and protecting the headwaters of the Arkansas River, the Bighorn Sheep Canyon, its inhabitants and the communities that depend upon them." ROAR is currently challenging construction of Christo's project with a federal lawsuit, claiming that the BLM did not adequately evaluate the project's environmental impact. Be sure to check back with KeepAmericaFishing to see how this process unfolds.