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GCPBA RiverNews 5/18/15 - New Navajo Nation President Reasserts Opposition to Grand C
GCPBA RiverNews 5/18/15 - New Navajo Nation President Reasserts Opposition to Grand Canyon Escalade
Newly sworn-in Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has reasserted his opposition to the Grand Canyon Escalade.
Here is his formal statement, released May 13, 2015:
“The agreement signed yesterday during the Inauguration between President Russell Begaye and outgoing Ben Shelly was historic and a symbolic gesture of Ahiɫ na’ anish, a smooth transition and an agreement in principle as a new administration takes office. The listing of projects on the agreement are those of the Shelly-Jim administration. The Begaye-Nez administration will vet and evaluate each project and determine whether the project will be in the best interest of the Navajo Nation and our people. As for the project, Grand Canyon Escalade, this Administration has already stated it does not support the Grand Canyon Escalade project and that position has not changed, as Mr. Begaye has stated it is not in the best interest of the Navajo Nation and the Navajo people.
~ Russell Begaye, President of the Navajo Nation
Here is further information from Felicia Fonseca of the Associated Press, May 13, 2015:
Newly inaugurated Navajo President Russell Begaye stood before hundreds of people at his inauguration ceremony and signed a document stating he would pursue dvelopment of an aerial tram at the Grand Canyon.
A day later, on Wednesday, Begaye issued a statement saying he's opposed to the project and always has been. His spokesman Eric Descheenie added that Begaye was blindsided by the agreement and didn't actually read what he signed.
(end) Begaye's predecessor, Ben Shelly, presented the agreement to Begaye on stage and said the signatures by the two leaders would showcase a continuity of leadership and commitment to the prosperity of the Navajo people.
Here's a look at questions surrounding the project and the political landscape.
WHAT IS THE GRAND CANYON ESCALADE?
The Grand Canyon Escalade is a proposed aerial tram at the east rim of the canyon outside the boundaries of the national park. Tourists would be shuttled from the cliff tops of the Navajo Nation to the edge of the Colorado River below before it meets the Little Colorado River.
The area about a 100-mile drive from Flagstaff and has no paved roads, running water or electricity. Plans call for infrastructure development, a riverside boardwalk, hotels, cultural center and areas for Navajo artisans to sell their goods.
HOW DO VISITORS CURRENTLY REACH THE BOTTOM OF THE CANYON?
Visitors to Grand Canyon National Park can hike or ride a mule to the bottom, and rafters can reach it by way of the Colorado River. Tourists can pay for helicopter rides into the canyon on the Hualapai and Havasupai reservations. A road that leads to the Colorado River on the Hualapai reservation also offers rafters a chance to get on or off the river for a fee.
WHAT'S IN IT FOR THE NAVAJO NATION?
That is up for debate. Some Navajos say the development would mar the landscape of sagebrush, rolling hills, arroyos and canyons that tribal members consider sacred ground. Shelly and the developers say it would create jobs and bring much-needed revenue and employment to the reservation where half the workforce is jobless. Proposals call for the tribe to put up an initial $65 million investment for infrastructure, with developers chipping in $165 to start off. Full build-out would approach $1 billion. Estimates from developers have put visitation at 2.5 million people per year, with annual revenue ranging from $20 million to $65 million a year.
WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?
The Navajo Nation Council, the tribe's legislative body, would have to vote on legislation to allow the project. No legislation has been introduced in the council, said spokesman Jared Touchin. Environmentalists, the National Park Service and the Hopi Tribe have opposed the project. Hopis consider the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers among the birthplaces of their ancestors, whose spirits dwell in the area. The project also could raise a jurisdictional challenge from the Park Service depending on how close it gets to the Colorado River.
WHAT OTHER GRAND CANYON DEVELOPMENTS EXIST?
The Hualapai Tribe operates the Grand Canyon Skywalk west of Grand Canyon National Park. Visitors can step out onto a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge to look into the depths of the canyon 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. An Italian real-estate group is planning a massive development just outside the Grand Canyon's South Rim entrance in the town of Tusayan. No water source has been identified for the proposed development of a dude ranch, high-end boutiques, five-star hotels, hundreds of homes and a high-density shopping area.
GCPBA RiverNews is a service of Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.
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