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Christo Delays Colorado 'Over The River' Project

DENVER (AP) - With legal challenges still pending, the artist Christo said Tuesday it will be impossible to exhibit his Over the River project in August 2015 as his team most recently projected.

He didn't give a new timeline, saying it would depend on when the challenges are resolved.

"It's a reality of the project. A number of people are trying to stop it," Christo said by telephone from Canon City, where he was briefing supporters.

Christo envisions suspending 5.9 miles worth of shimmery fabric panels over parts of a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas River traced by U.S. 50 in southern Colorado. Work to erect the piece, including installing the anchors and cables to hold the fabric, would unfold over about 28 months. The display would be dismantled after two weeks.

Christo at a meeting in Fremont County in February (credit: CBS)

Christo has said he wants the public to view the completed work during the month of August, when the river is calmer for rafters and school kids generally are still off for the summer, meaning it would be at least 2016 before the public could see it.

The group Rags Over the Arkansas River, or ROAR, hopes the project never happens. They have cited concerns about how it would affect wildlife, traffic and visitors' safety.

"Our goal is to stop the project and never allow it to occur," ROAR spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo said.

ROAR has filed a lawsuit challenging state parks officials' approval of Over the River. It also filed a federal lawsuit arguing that Bureau of Land Management officials violated environmental laws in issuing Christo a permit. Action on the federal lawsuit has been paused while an appeal board of the Interior Department reviews the matter at the request of another opponent. That review could take months, Christo's team said.

"We're really, really pleased about the delay," Anzelmo said. "We're going to continue to work really hard to help people understand how destructive Over the River would be for not only humans who use Highway 50, but bighorn sheep, bald eagles, trout. So many living creatures would be affected, along with public safety and public access."

Christo's team has said federal and state officials are requiring dozens of measures to mitigate the project's effects.

Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, first got the idea for Over the River in 1992. Their project The Gates in New York's Central Park took 26 years to become reality, he said.

"I'm 77 and, knock on wood, I'm in very good health. We all hope to have the project soon," Christo said of Over the River.

- By Catherine Tsai, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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