Tribe con­sid­ers de­vel­op­ment of ho­tels, shops in Grand Canyon

South Florida Times - - BUSINESS - By Grand Canyon


GRAND CONYON - A project that would build an aerial tram to take vis­i­tors to a riverside board­walk in the Grand Canyon with stores, ho­tels and restau­rants is up for a key vote Tues­day by tribal law­mak­ers who have been ret­i­cent to de­velop sa­cred land at one of the Seven Nat­u­ral Won­ders of the World.

The spe­cial ses­sion is the first time the Navajo Na­tion’s full Tribal Coun­cil takes up the mea­sure in­tro­duced last year. It needs 16 votes to pass and has so far got­ten a cold re­cep­tion from law­mak­ers from the na­tion’s largest Amer­i­can In­dian reser­va­tion.

The de­vel­op­ment on 420 acres of the reser­va­tion that borders Grand Canyon Na­tional Park re­quires a $65 mil­lion in­vest­ment from the tribe for roads, wa­ter and power lines, and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The leg­is­la­tion pre­vents other de­vel­op­ment within a 15-mile ra­dius and along ac­cess roads.

De­vel­op­ers say the tram and ac­com­pa­ny­ing re­tail and ho­tel sites at the East Rim could be run­ning by May 2021 if ev­ery­thing goes as planned.

Crit­ics showed up to urge law­mak­ers to op­pose the project as dis­cus­sion got un­der­way late Tues­day af­ter­noon. Those in­cluded fam­i­lies who hold graz­ing per­mits and leases to build homes in the area.

They have said the area is sa­cred and the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment would mar the land­scape where the Colorado River meets the blue-green wa­ters of the Lit­tle Colorado River. They also vow to keep fight­ing if the project is ap­proved.

“Once it gets to a vote, that’s the only thing coun­cil del­e­gates are ready to (do), vote it down,” said Re­nae Yel­lowhorse, who op­poses the project. “We’re a force.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and out­door en­thu­si­asts also de­cry the mea­sure. Ac­tor Robert Red­ford re­leased a video last De­cem­ber voic­ing op­po­si­tion, and an on­line pe­ti­tion against the pro­posal has col­lected thou­sands of sig­na­tures.

The vote comes ahead of a tribal elec­tion year and at a time the tribe is pre­par­ing for the loss of hun­dreds of jobs with the ex­pected shut­down of a coal-fired power plant and its sup­ply mine in 2019.

La­mar Whit­mer, part of the Scotts­dale­based Con­flu­ence Part­ners de­vel­op­ment group, said the East Rim project could em­ploy up to 3,500 peo­ple on a reser­va­tion where half the work­force is un­em­ployed.

The man­age­ment team in­cludes for­mer Navajo Pres­i­dent Al­bert Hale and oth­ers who have helped de­velop re­sorts and theme parks.

The Navajo Na­tion’s share of rev­enue would de­pend on the num­ber of vis­i­tors, but the tribe is guar­an­teed a min­i­mum 8 per­cent of gross rev­enue, de­vel­op­ers say.

“They want jobs. The one thing that’s crys­tal clear to me, with NGS shut­ting down be­cause it can’t be com­pet­i­tive, they’re go­ing to have to start ex­pand­ing and di­ver­si­fy­ing their econ­omy,” Whit­mer said about the Navajo Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion.


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