Over the River, a proposed two-week installation featuring 5.9 miles of incandescent, silver fabric segmented into eight sections over a 42-mile portion of the Arkansas River, was granted legal permissions from the Federal District Court on Jan. 2 to be constructed. The decision is currently being appealed.
Conceived by the husband-and-wife artist team of Christo and the late Jeanne-Claude, the project has been put on a two-year hiatus due to a lawsuit filed in 2012 by Rags Over the Arkansas River (ROAR), a Cañon City, Colo.–based opposition group formed specifically to thwart the installation, against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Colorado State Parks, who both had previously approved the art piece after conducting a three-year environmental analysis. ROAR's suit claimed that the project would negatively impact local wildlife and bring unwanted traffic to nearby highway US 50 with the increased tourism. The Federal District Court's Jan. 2 decision upholds the BLM's approval of the project.
ROAR has filed an appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals. If ROAR loses the appeal, Christo will be able to secure the remaining permits. It's unclear when the project will be completed because they cannot start building until they secure permits.
Although the installation schedule requires at least 27 months to complete a fact sheet provided on Over The River’s project website says it will take at least three years to be realized because the process includes protective measures requiring pauses in construction concerning the local wildlife.
“I was always confident the court would uphold the BLM’s actions because the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conducted by the BLM was thorough and comprehensive,” Christo said in an update on the project's website. “We have one appeal in state court still outstanding, but today we took a significant step forward in realizing Over The River.”
Since the project's conception, Jeanne-Claude, wife to Christo, died in 2009 at the age of 74 from a brain aneurysm suffered after a fall. Working as an artistic duo, she is often revered as the driving force that gained the building permits to realize their projects and battled legal issues. The couple was known for travelling alone on planes, so if one crashed, the other could carry out the project.
In the 1990s, the environmental artist duo came up with the concept for Over the River and toured more than 89 rivers in seven U.S. states before choosing the Arkansas River, specifically the area between the cities of Salida and Cañon City in south-central Colorado. The project was proposed in 2008, at which point the artists requested that the EIS be completed for the installation so that they could ensure minimal impact on the host environment.
The installation process includes determining the eight locations for the anchor transition frames (ATFs), cables, and fabric panels. Once the ATFs’ placement is chosen, they will be installed, and cables will be strung from parallel points on each side of the river. Fabric panels will then be attached to the cables, but not stretched, to maintain its quality. In the installation's final week, the fabric will be pulled to the next set of horizontal cables to create the canopy.
Known for taking measures to respect the environments chosen for their installations, the construction team will work with local agencies and government branches to ensure a limited impact associated with traffic and wildlife. To enhance recreation, Christo chose a two-week period in the beginning of August, when the waters are calm, so that rafters can enjoy the overhead canopy.