Navajo Nation Council delegates on Thursday overwhelmingly opposed plans to build a gondola tram and resort at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.
In a 14-2 vote, the Naabik’iyati’ Committee — a subgroup of the larger Navajo Nation Council that vets proposed legislation — rejected the Grand Canyon Escalade. The lone supporters were councilmen Leonard Tsosie and the bill’s sponsor, Ben Bennett.
Committee members said that the $65 million the Navajo Nation is being asked to invest in the project could be better spent on such things as roads, scholarships and other infrastructure improvements on the reservation.
The Confluence Partners is largely comprised of former state lawmaker Albert Hale and R. Lamar Whitmer, a Scottsdale businessman who historically has been involved in questionable deals. Hale, a former Navajo Nation president, was forced to resign amid a scandal involving financial irregularities during his administration as well as an extramarital affair.
Despite the committee’s opposition, the bill is expected to move to the Navajo Nation Council agenda on Monday, when the council’s summer session begins.
The committee is the last of four that considers and votes on the Escalade legislation, which proposes to develop a tourist center at Grand Canyon Eastern rim.
The Escalade bill was buried deep on Naabik’iyati’s agenda until Sawmill Councilman Ben Bennett pushed to have the legislation heard sooner late Thursday afternoon. The committee agreed.
The council, which starts its summer session Monday, July 17, could be ready to green light or reject the master agreement between the developers Confluence Partners and Navajo Nation.
The Scottsdale-based partners propose to lure tourists to a remote area of western Navajo by installing a gondola on the sheer wall of a canyon, where the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers meet. The bill also asks the Nation to approve $65 million for Escalade’s infrastructure.
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