RRFW Riverwire –Grand Canyon Tramway Bill Goes To Fall Session

August 10, 2017

 

A Phoenix based developer’s legislation to build a massive tourist development with a tramway to the bottom of the Grand Canyon will be taken up at the full Navajo Nation Tribal Council at the Nation’s Fall Session to be held the third week in October at Window Rock, Arizona.

The tramway legislation is a Phoenix developers scheme to build a luxury tourist resort on Navajo Nation lands at the rim of the Canyon, possibly including many hundreds of helicopter flights to the bottom of the Grand Canyon each day, along with moving up to ten thousand people a day to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back to the rim top via a tramway.

In order for the legislation to be voted on by the full Navajo Nation Tribal Council, the bill needed to be reviewed by four Navajo Nation committees. During the review process, the legislation failed to pass two committees and was tabled by a third. The fourth committee, the powerful Naabik’iyati’ Committee, reviewed the legislation July 14, 2017. Called Nabi for short, the Navajo word Naabik’iyati’ means “to talk about everything.”

The legislation sponsor, Resources and Development Committee Vice Chairman Ben Bennett, allowed testimony to be given to the committee by the Phoenix based developers. Residents and officials of the Bodaway Gap Chapter who live where the proposed development would be built were not allowed to speak.

The legislation proposes to take away 420 acres of land without compensation to the traditional Navajo families that have lived in that location for many decades, while circumventing a number of Navajo Nation laws.

Committee members discussed the legislation for two hours. Topics included reviewing language that would block any competing development up to 15 miles from the proposed project. That distance would impact development near the town of Cameron, where construction of a cultural center is planned.

Committee members brought up a four page legal analysis of the proposed development by the Navajo Nation Department of Justice. The letter pointed out a number of legal issues raised by the destructive development scheme, including the lack of a budget analysis showing where the Navajo Nation would come up with $65 million for the project’s infrastructure. When the developers were asked where the $65 Million would come from, their reply was that the money would come from the Navajo Nation Council.

After the testimony and debate, the committee voted the legislation down, 14 opposed with two in favor.

Following Navajo Nation legislative protocol, the legislation now moves to the full Navajo Nation Council Fall Session for a final vote. To pass, the legislation would need approval by 16 of the 24 delegates. At that point, the bill would go to Navajo Nation President Russel Begay, for his signature. President Begaye holds veto authority over the legislation and has so far promised to veto the bill should it reach his desk. A veto override would also need 16 delegate votes.

The developers appeared unconcerned that the legislation pits neighbor against neighbor in the Bodaway Gap Chapter. When the Nabi committee vote was recorded, a supporter of the development who resides in the Bodaway Gap Chapter stood up and hurled epithets toward the committee. He was escorted out of the meeting hall.

On the other side of the issue, a small group of dedicated Navajo Nation women who reside at Bodaway Gap have been taking their concerns about the development to chapters across the entire Navajo Nation. To date, twenty six chapters have taken a position against the legislation. All the chapters are represented by five Agencies that report to the Navajo Nation in Window Rock. Through the courageous work of these women, all five Agencies are on record opposing the legislation.

Delegate Bennett stated he now intends to use the next three months to sit down with his fellow delegates and the developers to see if some substantive changes to the legislation can be made. It is unclear how this would occur within the framework of Navajo Nation Tribal law.

According to the Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Services, additional Navajo Nation legislation would be needed to legally create such a task force. The developers are on record stating they are opposed to such legislation.

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