A Navajo lawmaker apparently is open to ironing out unpopular features of the Grand Canyon Escalade bill.
The Navajo Nation Council didn’t put the bill on its agenda during its summer session, which is now underway. The legislation proposes to build a tourist resort at Grand Canyon eastern rim in western Navajo Nation and requires the council green light.
Escalade bill sponsor Ben Bennett put the legislation on hold Monday because the councilman wants a negotiating panel devoted to easing criticism in the legislation, Navajo legislative officials said. Bennett also shared his thoughts with Gallup Independent and others about bringing the bill back in October during the council’s fall session.
Meanwhile, developers would regroup, Bennett said. If a task force is requested, Navajo legislative officials said it requires a new councilman to sponsor the legislation and a new bill.
“Bennett needs to draw up a whole new legislation to create a task force,” Navajo legislative officials said. “How that bill is drawn up is all up to the legislative legal people.”
Bennett had not filed a new legislation Wednesday.
It will be a year in August when the Escalade legislation started making its way toward the Navajo Council. None of the four Navajo Council’s committees assigned to consider the bill approved it.
It included Naabik’iyati’ Committee, a subgroup of the larger Navajo Nation Council that vets proposed legislation. The panel overwhelmingly rejected the bill in a 14 to 2 vote last week.
Many committee members blasted the bill after an unsuccessful attempt to kill it.
Council members disagreed the Nation kicking in millions for infrastructure. Others questioned why an exorbitant amount of money should be given to off-reservation developers when scholarships and funds for community infrastructure are scarce across the Nation.
One delegate criticized a competition clause in the bill because it would wipe out his chapter’s effort to develop.
Confluence Partners, Scottsdale-based developers, want the Navajo Nation Council to approve a contract with them. They propose the Nation give $65 million for the project’s infrastructure, agree to ban competing tourist businesses around the Escalade and withdraw 420 acres of Navajo land for development.
The proposed bill seeks to install a tram that takes tourists from the eastern rim of the Grand Canyon to the floor where the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers meet. The plan includes a river walk and cafe near the rivers and the rim would have a hotel, a visitor center, and a parking lot.