According to RiverWire, a Phoenix-based developer’s legislation to build a tramway and 10,000 acre resort community in the eastern part of the Grand Canyon received another major blow yesterday. The developers massive tourist development on the rim of the Grand Canyon calls for many hundreds of helicopter flights to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, along with moving up to ten thousand people a day to the bottom of the Canyon and back to the rim top.
The legislation must pass through four Navajo Nation Committees. Each committee has a hearing on the legislation, and then votes to support the legislation or not. Yesterday, in a five hour meeting at the Bodaway Gap Chapter House, the Budget and Finance Committee voted the legislation down. The vote was 3 against, 1 for, and as is the custom in such cases, the Chairman did not vote.
In October of 2016, the Law and Order Committee voted against the legislation, while the Resources and Development Committee voted to table the issue. The bill now moves to the powerful Naa’bik’iyati’ Committee which may take up the legislation as early as next week.
The legislation would require the Navajo Nation to commit an initial $65 Million to the project, and would allow the Phoenix, Arizona, developers to receive between 92% and 82% of the revenue the project would generate.
The Committee sat through a presentation by Albert Hale and Lamar Whitmer, the project developers. Only after repeated questioning by committee member Dwight Witherspoon did the developers admit the water for the proposed development would come from untested well fields to be built near the Gap.
Delegate Seth Damon told the roughly eighty attendees that the Budget and Finance Committee which he chairs rarely leaves the Navajo Nation meeting facilities at Window Rock, AZ. Damon stated he wanted to hear from the local community about the proposed legislation, and to that end he allowed local tribal members to speak for 2 minutes each.
Bodaway Gap Chapter residents who spoke at the meeting questioned why the chapter’s drinking water would be used by an outside developer while the local community lacked any running water. Others noted the insufficiency of the documents presented in the legislation and the lack of local participation. A Navajo elder who fought in the Vietnam War and received a Purple Heart stated “this project started off on the wrong foot, and it is still on the wrong foot.”
Bodaway Gap Chapter President Don Yellowman told the assembled delegates that the proposal was an “injustice to the community”, lacking “inclusion and transparency.” Yellowman pointed to a 2012 Bodaway Gap Chapter resolution stating the tramway development would grow to 10,000 acres in size, far outstripping the 420 acres the developers claim they need for the project’s first phase.
River Runners For Wilderness volunteer Tom Martin was cautiously optimistic with the outcome of today’s meeting. “I always learn a tremendous amount by attending these meetings. We share so many concerns with the local Chapter residents and Committee members about this ill-conceived proposal. Today’s vote shows that even in the midst of critical needs for drinking water, electricity, housing, schools and healthcare, the local Navajo know a bad deal when they are offered one.”
Martin encourages anyone interested to attend these committee meetings if at all possible. River Runners For Wilderness will post the next tramway legislation committee meeting date, time and location on the Rafting Grand Canyon Facebook page when this information becomes available.
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