BLM Petitioned to Evaluate "Gold Medal" Designation and OTR

February 19, 2014: Rags Over the Arkansas River (ROAR) has sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director requesting that BLM conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of Christo's proposed Over the River project as a consequence of the recent Gold Medal designation for the Arkansas River.

In early January, 2014, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission announced the upper Arkansas River as the newest addition to the statewide list of Gold Medal Trout Waters. The river's 102 miles from its headwaters below Leadville downstream to Parkdale at the Highway 50 bridge crossing now adds half-again the river miles of all Colorado's other Gold Medal waters combined.

This Gold Medal also encompasses the river miles Christo proposes to drill in and cover with his "Over the River" project.

The Gold Medal designation demands rigorous habitat conditions and access requirements that were neither contemplated nor addressed in BLM's Final Environmental Impact Statement. The art project would diminish many of the Gold Medal values of the river, if not be entirely inconsistent with the Gold Medal Designation. BLM is legally obligated to complete a Supplemental EIS to evaluate these possibilities.

If BLM does not stop Christo's destructive Over the River project, the agency will jeopardize the very intent of the Gold Medal designation.

Note: The OTR project continues to be indefinitely delayed with no estimated start date for construction and no display date.

Federal Suit: ROAR vs BLM

ROAR challenged the federal government’s decision to issue a land use authorization (the “2920 Permit”) to the Over the River Corp. (“OTR Corp.”) to construct a massive commercial art project that would cover 5.9 miles of the Arkansas River. The proposed Art Project will be constructed almost entirely within a critically sensitive area designated by the federal government as the Arkansas Canyonlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern (“ACEC”). This designation was granted in acknowledgement of, and to protect and prevent irreparable damage to, the important historic, cultural, scenic, wildlife, and other natural values of this portion of the Arkansas River. In particular, this designation was made, in part, to protect key habitat for Bighorn sheep, the mammalian symbol of the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (“CDPW”) and Colorado’s official animal. Read the amended motion as filed July 12, 2013.

State Suit: ROAR vs Colorado Parks

October 23, 2013: ROAR filed a Notice to Appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals. This notice initiates the process to appeal the decision of the Colorado District Court which recently upheld the decision of the Colorado Board of Parks and Outdoor Recreation ("Board") to approve construction and exhibition of Christo's Over the River (OTR) project within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA), a Colorado State Park unit. The Board approved the OTR project through a little used "Memorandum of Agreement" (MOA) instead of the normal state special activity permitting process required under the Board's own regulations.

ROAR maintains that established law requires state agencies to follow their own regulations.

Until just prior to the Board's approval of the OTR project, even Christo believed a special activity permit was required, as he applied for one in 1997 and never withdrew his application. The last minute decision to switch to a "Memorandum of Agreement" was made one week prior to the Board's merger with the Colorado Wildlife Commission. The Wildlife Commission had already unanimously voted to oppose the OTR project just one month earlier.

ROAR also contends that the Board, in addition to disregarding the opposition vote of the Wildlife Commissioners, made the last minute switch because the project would not be able to meet the conditions required for a special activity permit. Consequently, the Board, had it followed its own regulations, would have been compelled to deny approval for the project.

In a brief decision that contained little reasoning or consideration of ROAR's factual allegations, the Colorado District Court denied ROAR's lawsuit of July, 2011, which requested that the Court overturn the Board's decision approving the OTR project due to their incorrect use of the Memorandum of Agreement.

Read ROAR's Notice to Appeal in Colorado State Court.
Read Notice to Appeal - Appendix A

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