Though the Navajo Nation does not have $65 million on hand to pave a road to the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade site, the Navajo Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will hear about the project 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Bodaway/Gap.
The meeting is not listed at navajonationcouncil.org/meetings, yet. The budget committee’s agenda will post later, according to the tribe’s council assistants.
The council’s budget committee is next to consider the Grand Canyon Escalade legislation, which is moving toward the Navajo Nation Council. The council’s Resources and Development Committee tabled the bill Jan. 11 for varied reasons ranging from how the community is divided over the project to their concern about unanswered questions about Escalade.
One budget committee member said there is no money available for the project although developers continue to push, lobby the council to find $65 million for infrastructure.
The amount of money is part of the Escalade bill that asks the council to approve a proposed master operating contract with Confluence Partners LLC, developers from Scottsdale. The Partners want to build a mega-tourist development site overlooking the confluence of the Little and Colorado Rivers.
A key feature of the project is a gondola that will transport visitors from the rim to the floor Grand Canyon Eastern rim. The bill also wants the council to approve a 420-acre land withdrawal on the rim, property on which developer propose to build a restaurant, hotel, a visitor center, and parking lot.
The resort will open by 2020, according to Confluence Partner Albert Hale.
Hale and Partners have lobbied council members in Window Rock. They claim the Escalade will bring 3,500 jobs to a high unemployed area of the Nation.
Opponents of the Escalade criticize the Escalade bill for many reasons.
They include how specialized jobs, such as employees who install the tram, will require off-Navajo Nation hires initially. When Escalade opens, sustained jobs, such as motel maids and dishwashers, would be available for the local community.
Opponents also disagree with how developers propose to take 82 percent of Escalade profits.
Another includes how the bill fails to comply with the Nation’s and Federal development process and laws. This includes a failure by the Partners to get consent for development from grazing permit holders of Bodaway/Gap.
The opponents also have the backing of 18 of 110 Navajo chapters supporting their cause through resolutions. Four chapters, three from western Navajo, gave thumbs down to the Escalade this week.
The western Navajo chapters include Kaibeto, LeChee and Navajo Mountain. The fourth chapter is Tsaili/Wheatfields.
After the budget committee takes action Tuesday, Naa’bik’iyati committee is the last panel that considers the bill before it moves to the council agenda. The next Naa’bik’iyati’ meeting is March 9.
The six-member budget committee members are Lee Jack, Sr., Tuchoney Slim, Jr., Tom T. Chee, Leonard Tsosie, Seth Damon and Dwight Witherspoon.
The members represent the following Nation chapters on the 24-member council: Jack represents Dilcon, Indian Wells, Teesto, Whitecone and Greasewood Springs; Slim, Coppermine, Kaibeto, LeChee, Tonalea/Red Lake and Bodaway/Gap; Chee, Shiprock; Tsosie, Littlewater, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake, Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Ojo Encino and Counselor; Damon, Baahaali, Chilchiltah, Manuelito, Red Rock, Rock Springs and Tsayatoh; Witherspoon, Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Pinon, Black Mesa and Whippoorwill.