Christo announced on Tuesday that the Over the River project won't be draped over the Arkansas River until August 2015.
On Feb. 1 and 2, the artist and his professional team appeared in Canon City and Cotopaxi at public meetings where they made the case for special use permits to allow them to drape fabric over a 5.9-mile segment of the river.
The permits, needed from Fremont and Chaffee counties, have not been issued, but offiicals and most of the public have supported the idea because the artwork, hung over the river for a two-week period, is expected th draws hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world.
Christo has a permit for the project from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and has the support of state agencies.
Christo's team says it's shifting the exhibition date because the BLM decision was issued several months later than expected, and they want to give the public more time to review detailed plans for installing the project.
The announcement is bound to be a disappointment for tourism officials, but Christo foreshadowed the possibility of a delay earlier this month and said the project would be completed in August 2014 at the earliest.
The setback is routine in the sense that it took Christo 26 years to install his famed The Gates in Central Park in New York City.
Christo first proposed The Gates in 1979; the art was in place in 2005 -- to rave reviews.
Christo also draped fabric over the Reichstag in Berlin, a project that took more than 20 years of public process.
Here is the statement released by the artist:
Over The River update
In the months since BLM issued its Record of Decision (ROD), Christo and the Over The River team have been focused on the next phases of the project. This includes development of the Event Management Plans (EMP's) for the initial phases of the project (staging, anchor and Anchor Transition Frame installation), applying for the county permits and finalizing the installation schedule. As we have been working on these tasks, a couple of things have become increasingly apparent.
First, the public continues to express a strong desire to see the specifics of the EMP's that are being developed. These plans will include operational details that address the many traffic, safety and other issues that have been raised. Typically, this level of detail is not included in an EIS but is usually in an EMP that is developed after a ROD has been issued. That is the process we are following, but the EMP's for the initial installation phases won't be fully developed for some months. This leaves little time between completion of each phase of the EMP and the onset of each phase of installation. Christo believes that the public may not have sufficient time to understand this detailed information before installation begins.
Second, the thoroughness of the BLM's environmental review process resulted in the ROD being issued several months later than originally planned. As a result, the BLM's Final EIS authorized 28 months for installation, but only 24 months remained. This timeframe also included many months where work was prohibited in certain areas or otherwise restricted because of mitigation measures designed to avoid sensitive wildlife and recreation seasons. The planning activities since the issuance of the ROD made it increasingly apparent that the remaining installation schedule of 24 months did not allow room for unpredictable events such as severe weather.
For these reasons, Christo has decided to shift the Over The River exhibition date from early August 2014 to early August 2015. This adjustment will allow the EMP's for the initial project phases to be developed before installation begins so that the public will have time to better understand how traffic, safety and other issues will be addressed. It will also reinstate the full 28 month installation schedule, as included in the Final EIS.
All other aspects of Over The River remain unchanged. The number of installation days remains the same and the comprehensive set of more than 100 mitigation measures will remain in place. The Fremont County, Chaffee County, Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol permitting processes will continue as planned.
Christo understands that this news may be disappointing to thousands of local residents and many thousands of art enthusiasts around the world who are looking forward to experiencing Over The River. Nonetheless, this change will result in a better informed public and an improved installation schedule.
An overview of the permitting, installation, exhibition and removal schedule is available on the Over The River website.