Sawmill Chapter rejected Monday its own Navajo councilman’s bill for a tourist hub at Grand Canyon Eastern Rim.
Ben Bennett’s home chapter is now one of nine chapters that voted Friday through Monday to support Navajo land users affected by a proposed resort project named Grand Canyon Escalade in Western Navajo.
The chapter joins a chorus of six chapters that decried the Escalade bill, which is making its way through the legislative process toward the Navajo Nation Council. Chapter voters disagreed with the steep priced-project, which they say demolishes sacred space, destroys a fragile environment, skirts tribal and federal laws and lacks consent from land users.
The nation has 110 chapters and the movement to gain their support started in 2013, shortly after western Navajo Bodaway/Gap Chapter voted 59-52 favoring the Escalade.
Bennett represents four chapters on the Navajo Nation Council. All voted against the bill including Fort Defiance, Red Lake and Crystal.
Bennett also is vice chair of the Navajo Council’s Resources and Development Committee, which is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Bodaway/Gap Chapter to discuss the Escalade.
“This just illustrates that Navajos don’t want this project,” said a Tohatchi Navajo chapter official.
The other chapters that said no to the Escalade project are Tohatchi, Twin Lakes, Mexican Springs, Coyote Canyon, Naschitti and Shiprock.
Chapters that threw their support behind the land users in December include Crystal and Crownpoint. Other chapters that passed resolutions and are on record opposing the Escalade project include Tuba City, Coppermine, Cameron and Hard Rock.
The Escalade bill asks the council to approve a master operating contract with Confluence Partners LLC, developers from Scottsdale, who want to build a mega-tourist development site overlooking the confluence of the Little and Colorado Rivers. The project site is in southern Bodaway/Gap chapter.
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 asks the nation to pay $65 million for the project’s infrastructure and approve a 420-acre land withdrawal, property on which developers propose to build a restaurant, hotel, a visitor center and parking lot.
Navajo Land users of the 420 acres and residents along the 27-mile stretch of road to the project site have not given their consent to the project. Tribal development law requires developers get this agreement from land users.