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Mar 27, 2012 7:25 PM by Matt Stafford

Fremont Co. approves Over the River, still steps to go

Fremont County Commissioners are giving approval to artist Christo for his Over the River project - covering the parts of the Arkansas River with sheets of fabric.

Other requests for approval are still pending; however getting the unanimous vote from the Fremont County Commissioners was a big hurdle that Christo's team has now crossed.

Commissioner Ed Norden tells News 5 he expects the project running by 2015. It's been talked about since the 1990's.

Commissioner Norden says he thinks this could be an economic opportunity for the area, and he wants to latch on. However, his concerns while considering the proposal have been impacts on area businesses and nearby residents. Commissioner Norden felt comfortable enough to give his okay Tuesday morning.

"I just felt that I wanted to make sure that while we're going to impact the daily lives of a number of people, we have to be reasonable and make that impact as least as possible for those people who live and work there," says Commissioner Norden.

Dan Ainsworth lives near Highway 50 and he's been against the project for more than ten years. He's president of the group Rags Over the Arkansas River, also known as ROAR; they've been trying to get the project stopped. They weren't happy with the county's decision Tuesday, but still feel they still have options to stop it. They have a couple of lawsuits that have been filed.

"The safety is our biggest concern, and it's not the two week display period; it's the three to five, or six year construction period that's going to be the problem," says Ainsworth.

Other requests from Christo for this project are still pending; Chaffee County is considering it, so are Colorado's Department of Transportation and State Patrol.

As for the lawsuits that Ainsworth and his group have filed; one is federal against the Bureau of Land Management, and the other is against the state Division of Parks and Wildlife. Ainsworth says they expect to be getting word on those next month.

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