Navajo Nation committee meeting at council chambers.The proposed Grand Canyon Escalade bill is one committee away from the Navajo Nation Council’s agenda.

The council’s Naa’bik’iyati’ committee plans to debate Grand Canyon Escalade at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 9 at Navajo Education Center, Morgan Blvd. in Window Rock.  Navajo council aides said if the committee tables, passes or rejects the bill, it will move to the council, which begins its spring session April 17.

Naa’bik’iyati’ comprises of the full 24-member council lawmakers, which thoroughly debates bills ahead of the official session. The committee, for example, would have addressed most questions because delegates don’t receive a lot of time to speak on the council floor.

Councilman Ben Bennett filed the Escalade bill in late August. The bill was assigned to the council’s four committees for review. They are Law and Order, Resources and Development, Budget and Finance and Naa’bik’iyati’.

So far, three committees have not approved the Escalade bill. The Budget committee is the most recent to reject the bill in 3 opposed, 1 in favor vote, Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Bodaway/Gap.

An apparent lack of community involvement, strong opposition expressed by land users and unanswered questions by the Partners caused the panel to vote against the Escalade, according to people, who attended the meeting.

Dwight Witherspoon, Budget committee member who represents Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Pinon, Black Mesa and Whippoorwill, asked about water for the infrastructure of the Partners?

“Where is the water going to come from?” Witherspoon said. “Then you have maintenance because you’re suggesting that the Nation would be contributing to the infrastructure, what is the maintenance requirements you would be paying for such?”

A definite answer was not available from the Partners, according to a tape recording of the meeting.

The Escalade bill proposes the council approve a master operating contract with Confluence Partners LLC, developers from Scottsdale. The Partners propose to build a mega-tourist development site overlooking the confluence of the Little and Colorado Rivers at Grand Canyon Eastern rim.

A key feature of the project is a gondola that will transport visitors from the rim to the floor of 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 which developers propose to build a restaurant, hotel, a visitor center, and parking lot. The Partners want the council to withdraw the land without consent from land users, which is required under tribal development regulations.

The resort should be in operation by 2020, according to Confluence Partner Albert Hale.


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