Resources Committee hears from tram opponents

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, August 2nd, 2012

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T he Navajo Nation Council's Resources and Development Committee last week told opponents of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade, a major resort and tramway at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, that they need to hear both sides of the story before taking a side.

"We are the economic development committee, and we are also the committee that protects land and resources, so we have to reach a good balance," explained Committee Chair Katherine Benally (Chilchinbeto/Dennehotso/Kayenta).

RDC plans to meet with the developers, President Ben Shelly, and the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department, Benally said at the RDC's regular meeting July 24.

The tram opponents had asked the committee to void a Feb. 21 memorandum of agreement between the Navajo Nation and Confluence Partners LLC to begin negotiations on the $120 million project.

Several committee members agreed with tram opponent Pauline Martin Sanchez that Shelly should not have signed the agreement without passing it before the Resources Committee, but Shelly's spokesman, Erny Zah, said last week the agreement was non-binding and did not need the approval of the committee.

The committee also agreed to look into whether or not Bodaway/Gap Chapter officials had committed a breach of ethics by refusing to sign a resolution passed by that chapter opposing the resort.

At the time, Chapter President Billy Arizona had said the resolution "named too many names" - in other words, was a personal attack on the character of the Confluence Partners.

A second resolution that eliminated most of the personal references was passed by a wide margin Sunday. Chapter officials have not returned an email to confirm they have signed the later resolution.

Opponents of the Grand Canyon Escalade proposal say it would infringe on sacred sites, customary use areas, and a delicate ecosystem. Confluence Partners says it would bring 2,000 jobs and tens of millions in revenue to the depressed former Bennett Freeze area.

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