Saturday, January 21, 2012

Over the River moves along

Posted By on Sat, Jan 21, 2012 at 7:30 AM

Over the River has already received the Bureau of Land Management's blessing with last year's Record of Decision, but there are still approvals ahead.

Coming up: Temporary use permit approval from Fremont and Chaffee counties.

  • Wolfgang Volz, Christo 2007

In addition to a permit application, Fremont County is also collecting public opinion in the form of comments and hearings, one being held Wednesday, Feb. 1, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (with a break from noon to 1:30) at the Fremont County Administration Building (615 Macon Ave., Cañon City). The other will be Thursday, Feb. 2, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at Cotopaxi School (345 County Road 12, Cotopaxi).

Gaining these counties' approval is "critical," says the OTR team. So much so that Christo will be there to speak, and to drum up support.

(Those for the project can attend a pre-hearing supporter rally from 8 to 8:45 a.m., Feb. 1, at Fremont Center for the Arts. Shirts and stickers will be passed out all day. Other rallies will be held at Café Dawn, 203 W. First St. in Salida from 2 to 4 p.m. daily between Jan. 27 and 30, and at Cotopaxi School at 4:45 p.m., Feb. 2.)

Should the counties reject the project, the whole thing might be off, says Ellen T. Bauder of Rags Over the Arkansas River (ROAR), OTR's main opponent.

Adjustments may be made per the commissioners' demands, she says, but ROAR hopes its concerns will be heard. Bauder plans to be at the hearings with other members to state their case in a presentation Bauder will deliver.

One concern Bauder discussed is the concern for safety from wind. Over the last several months, high winds have ripped through the mountains, with gusts most recently in the 60 mph range. She says some people in the canyon have had roofs ripped off their houses.

An exhibit from the temporary use permit, showing a traffic equipment plan.
  • Over the River/Hayward Baker Geotechnical Construction
  • An exhibit from the temporary use permit, showing a traffic equipment plan.

She says that the OTR team's claim that their structures can withstand a "representative windspeed" is baloney.

"I'm a scientist, and that word has no scientific meaning, like the 'average' or the 'most extreme,' or something like that."

And construction itself may be dangerous, she adds, with 70-foot cranes balancing on one lane of the highway in what could be a wind tunnel. Sudden thunderstorms and flash floods could also arise quickly.

Bauder adds that Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Valley Curtain succumbed to wind, and another project, Umbrellas, led to the death of one worker during construction when high winds blew over one of the heavy metal pieces. (The artists did demand the pieces be dismantled immediately.)

Meanwhile, approval from Chaffee County is another matter, Bauder says. Currently, Chaffee is in the process of rewriting its "permit process" partly in response to last summer's USA Pro Cycling Challenge, in which the county felt it was underprepared for such a large event.

We also asked Bauder about the status of ROAR's suit against the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Board, in which ROAR and two other businesses claim the board violated its own regulations in giving its approval to OTR. Bauder says "it's still moving along."

Either way, ROAR is still fighting: "There are other permits and other issues and we still have other things we can consider doing in addition to trying to have the Fremont County commissioners take our concerns seriously."

The OTR permit to Fremont County can be read here. Comments for the county may be submitted by e-mail ( and cc: or snail mail (Fremont County Planning and Zoning Department, 615 Macon Ave., Rm. 210, Cañon City, CO 81212).

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