Colorado approves two leases for Christo's river project
Colorado land commissioners on Friday agreed to lease about 137 acres of state land for artist Christo's controversial $50 million art project to drape shimmery canopies over a 6-mile stretch of the Arkansas River.
A 7.7-acre parcel of state land now could be used to anchor and hang some of the canopy fabric. A second 130-acre parcel is to be used for creation of a protected corridor designed to appeal to bighorn sheep that live in the river canyon.
"We've worked to identify and address the environmental impacts. So long as they can be properly addressed through mitigation or avoidance measures, we'd like to see this project go forward," said Bob Randall, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. "It will bring people and attention to the state."
The State Land Board commissioners based their decision to lease state land on the fact that the leases would generate revenue for schools — about $26,000 — for the land west of Parkdale in Fremont County that currently brings little income.
Federal Bureau of Land Management officials are expected to make the final decision this fall on whether to allow the "Over The River" project.
In June, Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter conveying "unequivocal support" for the project. In July, BLM officials released a completed environmental impact study that deems the project acceptable with mitigation measures — such as bighorn sheep corridor — to offset potential harm.
Artist Christo has been seeking permits for the project, which would suspend fabric panels above the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City.
This would be in place for two weeks — as soon as August 2014. Proponents say it will generate $121 million in economic activity and draw 400,000 visitors.