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Ken Salazar, Secretary Of The Interior, Talks Christo's 'Over The River' Project At Colorado College State Of The Rockies Conference

Posted: 04/10/2012 2:29 pm Updated: 04/10/2012 2:38 pm

Over The River 2015

Colorado College's 2012 State of the Rockies conference featured Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Director of the USGS Dr. Marcia McNutt, both CC alumni, speaking on energy, water, and conservation issues in the West. Prior to their presentations, the two fielded questions from the press and discussed Christo's "Over The River" project. If approved, the project would suspend 5.9 miles of fabric over a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City in Colorado.

The BLM recently approved the Over The River Project by Christo. Did you personally get involved with that approval? Do you support the project?

Secretary Salazar: I support the project. The record of decision was signed by the BLM, but I was aware of what was going on and I agree with the decision. It seems to me that it's important for a couple reasons. The first is that it brings attention to our rivers, and one of the planks of our 'Great Outdoors Agenda' is to have a focus on rivers and river restoration… One of the things that the Christo project will do is it will bring renewed attention to the rivers of America. So that's one impeller for the project -- the other is the economics of it. When you look at Chaffee County and Fremont County and that whole area… [rafting] is a huge job creator for that part of the Arkansas River Basin, so I think it's a good project.

The Denver Post reports that Christo's team already has federal approval to proceed, but still needs permits from Chaffee County, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and eventually the state patrol. Commissioners in Fremont County recently approved a permit for the fabric art project.

Construction was to begin in 2012 for an exhibition date of August 2014, but in February Christo's team postponed the exhibition date to August 2015, 7News reported. For reasoning behind the new date Christo's team said that it was due to a delayed approval to allow the project from the Bureau of Land Management which shortened the 28-month construction schedule to 24 months. The later date also gives local authorities more time to deliberate on the project.

And given the concern of some environmental groups about the project's impact on local land and wildlife, local authorities may need more time. In January, law students in the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the "Over the River" project. The DU law students filed the suit on behalf of Rags Over the Arkansas River (ROAR), a group that opposes the industrial scale art project due to what they claim are environmental issues and dangers to the residents and visitors of the proposed "Over the River" project area.

The Bureau of Land Management approved the project in November and is believed to be the first artwork to receive the BLM's approval through the drafting of a lengthy environmental impact statement. The project is estimated to cost $50 million, a cost paid for by Christo, and that materials used for the project would be recycled. Christo is also required to put several mitigation measures into place for local wildlife like bighorn sheep and birds.

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  • The National Gallery Of Art News Conference On Receiving Two Works By Christo

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: Artist Christo speaks at a press conference unveiling two original preparatory collages for 'Over The River' donated to the National Galley of Art's permanent collection by French environment artist Christo at the National Gallery of Art on November 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images)

  • The National Gallery Of Art News Conference On Receiving Two Works By Christo

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: Artist Christo speaks at a press conference unveiling two original preparatory collages for 'Over The River' donated to the National Galley of Art's permanent collection by French environment artist Christo at the National Gallery of Art on November 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images)

  • The National Gallery Of Art News Conference On Receiving Two Works By Christo

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: Artist Christo speaks at a press conference unveiling two original preparatory collages for 'Over The River' donated to the National Galley of Art's permanent collection by French environment artist Christo at the National Gallery of Art on November 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images)

  • The National Gallery Of Art News Conference On Receiving Two Works By Christo

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: Artist Christo, National Art Gallery Curator Molly Donovan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Earl A. Powell, Director of National Art Gallery attend a press conference unveiling two original preparatory collages for 'Over The River' donated to the National Galley of Art's permanent collection by French environment artist Christo at the National Gallery of Art on November 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images)

  • The National Gallery Of Art News Conference On Receiving Two Works By Christo

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: General view of atmosphere at a press conference unveiling two original preparatory collages for 'Over The River' donated to the National Galley of Art's permanent collection by French environment artist Christo at the National Gallery of Art on November 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images)

  • The National Gallery Of Art News Conference On Receiving Two Works By Christo

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: Artist Christo speaks at a press conference unveiling two original preparatory collages for 'Over The River' donated to the National Galley of Art's permanent collection by French environment artist Christo at the National Gallery of Art on November 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images)

  • TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-CULTURE-ART (FIL

    TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-CULTURE-ART (FILES) This November 26, 2010 file photo shows Bulgarian-born artist Christo poses next to one of his works as part of his exhibition 'Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado' at the Guy Pieters Gallery in Paris. Christo, famed for his monumental projects including wrapping the Reichstag dome in Berlin, announced his gift of two works of art to the National Gallery in Washington, DC and spoke November 8, 2011 with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to announce the gift, and his ongoing project along the Arkansas River in Colorado. AFP PHOTO/JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Bulgarian-born artist Christo poses on N

    Bulgarian-born artist Christo poses on November 26, 2010 next to one of his works as part of his exhibition 'Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado' that will be on show until January 23, 2010 at the Guy Pieters Gallery in Paris. AFP PHOTO/JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Bulgarian-born artist Christo poses on N

    Bulgarian-born artist Christo poses on November 26, 2010 next to one of his works as part of his exhibition 'Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado' that will be on show until January 23, 2010 at the Guy Pieters Gallery in Paris. AFP PHOTO/JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Christo and Jeanne-Claude

    FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2008 file photograph, drawings of the "Over the River" project are pictured in the background as Christo and Jeanne-Claude arrive for a news conference at a gallery displaying their work in Denver. The Bureau of Land Management released its draft environmental study on Friday, July 16, 2010 saying the Christo's "Over the River" project could have moderate to significant impact on bighorn sheep and historical sites. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

  • Christo and Jeanne-Claude

    Artist Christo, right, and his partner Jeanne-Claude speak during a press conference in their exhibition "Over the River, A Work in Progress" at the Fondation de l'Hermitage in Lausanne, Switzerland, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. The artists current artwork in progress, "Over The River" which will be exhibited in summer 2012 at the earliest, started in 1992. The artists propose the horizontal suspension of 9.4 km (5.8miles) of fabric panels in separate segments along a 62 km (38.5miles) stretch above the Arkansas River, in the State of Colorado, USA. The exhibition in Lausanne lasts from Feb. 13 to May 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Keystone, Dominic Favre)

  • Christo and Jeanne-Claude

    US artist Christo, right, and his partner Jeanne-Claude speak during a press conference in their exhibition "Over the River, A Work in Progress" at the Fondation de lHermitage in Lausanne, Switzerland, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. The artists current artwork in progress, "Over The River" which will be exhibited in summer 2012 at the earliest, started in 1992. The artists propose the horizontal suspension of 9.4 km of fabric panels in separate segments along a 62 km stretch above the Arkansas River, in the State of Colorado, USA. The exhibition in Lausanne lasts from Feb. 13 to May 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Keystone/Dominic Favre)

  • Drawing of "Over the River"

    A visitor looks at a drawing of artist Christo and his partner Jeanne-Claude, during a press conference in their exhibition "Over the River, A Work in Progress" at the Fondation de l'Hermitage in Lausanne, Switzerland, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. The artists current artwork in progress, "Over The River" which will be exhibited in summer 2012 at the earliest, started in 1992. The artists propose the horizontal suspension of 9.4 km (5.8miles) of fabric panels in separate segments along a 62 km (38.5miles) stretch above the Arkansas River, in the State of Colorado, USA. The exhibition in Lausanne lasts from Feb. 13 to May 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Keystone, Dominic Favre)

  • Workers shovel snow off a path under art

    NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Workers shovel snow off a path under artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude's temporary art project 'The Gates' 01 March 2005 in New York' Central Park. The third snowstorm in eight days hit the northeast region with 7.5 inches (19cm) recorded in the park, delaying the removal of The Gates. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Gates Dismantling Delayed Due To Snow

    NEW YORK - MARCH 01: People walk through a tunnel in Central Park March 1, 2005 in New York City. The dismantling of 'The Gates?, the largest public art display in New York City history, has been delayed due to heavy snow in the New York area. 'The Gates' is displayed along 23 miles of paved paths throughout Central Park and is free and open to all. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • New York Bids Farewell To "The Gates"

    NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 28: Workers take down pieces of 'The Gates,' an art installation created by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, February 28, 2005 in Central Park, New York City. The thousands of tons of steel, plastic and saffron-colored fabric will be taken down over the next week and recycled. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • New York Bids Farewell To "The Gates"

    NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 28: Workers take down pieces of 'The Gates,' an art installation created by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, February 28, 2005 in Central Park, New York City. The thousands of tons of steel, plastic and saffron-colored fabric will be taken down over the next week and recycled. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • New York Bids Farewell To "The Gates"

    NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 28: Workers take down pieces of 'The Gates,' an art installation created by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, February 28, 2005 in Central Park, New York City. The thousands of tons of steel, plastic and saffron-colored fabric will be taken down over the next week and recycled. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • 'The Gates' In NYC's Central Park

    NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 27: People walk beneath 'The Gates' art installation in Central Park on its final day February 27, 2005 in New York City. Created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 'The Gates' features 7,500 frames with their hanging orange-tinted fabric, creating what the artists billed as 'a visual golden river' along 23 miles of footpaths in the park. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Snow Falls on 'The Gates' In NYC's Central Park

    NEW YORK- FEBRUARY 24: Men walk beneath 'The Gates' art installation as snow falls in Central Park February 24, 2005 in New York City. Created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 'The Gates' features 7,500 frames with their hanging orange-tinted fabric, creating what the artists billed as 'a visual golden river'' along 23 miles of footpaths in the park. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • 'The Gates' Continues in NYC's Central Park

    NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: A man is reflected in water as he stands beneath 'The Gates' art installation at dusk in Central Park February 22, 2005 in New York City. Created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 'The Gates' features 7,500 frames with their hanging orange-tinted fabric, creating what the artists billed as 'a visual golden river'' along 23 miles of footpaths in the park. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • 'The Gates' Continues in NYC's Central Park

    NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: A man is reflected in water while surrounded by 'The Gates' art installation in Central Park February 22, 2005 in New York City. Created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 'The Gates' features 7,500 frames with their hanging orange-tinted fabric, creating what the artists billed as 'a visual golden river'' along 23 miles of footpaths in the park. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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