Greg Felt is a partner in Ark Anglers in Salida, Colorado.  The following comments are in regard to the Cristo project which proposes to place cloth panels over the Arkansas River.  Frankly we think the project is at best silly and at worst, harmful to the River.  



The following are Greg's comments.   I want to provide a significant update on the Over the River art project. As many of you will recall, the artist Christo is attempting to gain permission from the BLM to suspend fabric panels above 5.9 miles of the Arkansas River. The areas to be draped are spread over 50 miles of river but include our cherished County Line reach, the red cliffs near Rincon, and the Red Rocks Canyon between Howard and Vallie Bridge. While the exhibition would only run for 2-4 weeks, presumably in August of 2014, the construction of this project would take two years and the dismantling a third. If that seems like a long time, consider that he plans to drill over 9000 anchor holes in the walls and boulders of the canyon, from which to suspend 1100 cables across the river at heights of 8-20 feet. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement, released for comment a year ago, identified hundreds of serious impacts, including potential of up to 50% herd mortality for the Bighorn Sheep, threats to fishery health, significant loss of angler access, and potentially devastating economic impacts to the "fishing industry".



 

While the Final EIS and Record of Decision continue to be delayed, the Colorado Wildlife Commission sent the BLM a letter condemning the project from the wildlife perspective and demanding mitigation for the many wildlife-related impacts. Subsequent to that, and in the last meeting of the Colorado State Parks Board prior to the recent merger of Colorado State Parks and Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Parks Board entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Over the River corporation, accepting $550,000 in "recreation impact fees" in exchange for turning over management and control of Bighorn Sheep Canyon to Christo and his employees for the duration of the project. Rod and I attended that Parks Board meeting and suggested that it was premature to enter into such an arrangement without the benefit of the Final EIS, that it was a deviation from the State Parks mission statement to permit activities that conflicted with the existing wildlife and recreation values, and that as long-time "partners" with State Parks, we opposed the approval of an activity in Bighorn Sheep Canyon that was so clearly going to be detrimental to our business. Sadly, our comments fell on deaf ears.

 

After several weeks of soul-searching and consideration of options, last Friday we joined ROAR, a membership-funded group opposing the project, in a lawsuit against Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado State Parks. Our objective is to seek an injunction against the Memorandum of Agreement and force Over the River Corp. to apply to Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife for a Special Use Agreement. This is the same process that an outfitter goes through to conduct operations within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and one that cannot result in approval if the proposed activity is in conflict with recreation and wildlife management objectives or existing permitted uses. Toward this end, Rod and I have retained two of the preeminent natural resource attorneys in the state, Keith Tooley and Rebecca Watson, and have committed significant resources to the fight.

 

Over the years, many of our guests and customers have asked how they can help to prevent this project from going forward. There will be opportunity soon to comment on the Final Environmental Impact Statement and we will provide contact information at that time. At this point though, one of the best ways to help the fight is by taking a guided trip with ArkAnglers. We are paying for this legal battle out of pocket, have just come through a prolonged high water season, and, frankly, need to bolster our war chest. We aren't looking for handouts. We just want to keep earning our living the way we always have, by providing top quality fly-fishing information, retail merchandise and guided trips for people who want to find success on the Arkansas. If you've been contemplating a float or wade trip, or maybe the purchase of a new rod or waders, we hope you'll support our cause by supporting our business.

 

We'll keep you posted.

 

Greg Felt

ArkAnglers

719-539-4223

greg@arkanglers.com

www.arkanglers.com






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