Urgent Action Needed By 9/2 to Save the Confluence of the Little Colorado and the Colorado River in the Grand CanyonPosted: August 30, 2016
CALLING ALL CANYON & RIVER ADVOCATES — The unthinkable has happened. Legislation has been submitted within the
Navajo Nation for the Grand Canyon Escalade proposal (421 acres of development above the sacred confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers, with a gondola/tramway that could bring 10,000 people down to river level PER DAY). If approved, this massive development would FOREVER CHANGE GRAND CANYON!
EVERYONE should submit comments and speak out against this terrible proposal before the deadline which is 5:00 PM this Friday, Sept 2nd!! Please spread the word far and wide through email and social media! We need YOUR help!
1. READ THIS HORRIBLE LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL AT http://www.navajonationcouncil.org/Legislations/2016/AUG/0293-16.pdf
2. SIGN THE PETITION AGAINST THIS PROPOSAL! The petition link can be found at www.savetheconfluence.com (and please encourage others to support and follow the STC Facebook page, sign up for email alerts, etc.)
3. COMMENT DIRECTLY TO THE NAVAJO NATION! You can email directly to comments or you can mail comments to: Executive Director Office of Legislative Services P.O. Box 3390 Window Rock, AZ 86515 (928) 871-7590. Comments may be made in the form of chapter resolutions, letters, position papers, etc. Please include your name, position title, address for written comments; a valid e-mail address is required. Anonymous comments will not be included in the Legislation packet.
For a 2 page summary of the proposed legislation: http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/sites/default/files/gc_Confluence_Partners_Escalade.pdf
For more information on what’s at stake: http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/stopping-grand-canyon-escalade
And also: http://savetheconfluence.com/news/proposed-grand-canyon-escalade-bill-starts-move/
The bottom line is:
· This is GRAND CANYON – one of the seven NATURAL wonders of the world. If the Navajo Nation government approves this development, the integrity of values for which Grand Canyon was created will be severely compromised and degraded FOREVER.
· The Little Colorado River corridor and its confluence with the Colorado River is culturally and spiritually significant to ALL of the affiliated tribes who hold Grand Canyon sacred.
· A fragile, delicately balanced ecosystem is at stake. Proposed development raises serious questions about water, sewage, noise, impacts to endangered species (such as the humpback chub that spawn in the Little Colorado River), dark skies and wilderness values.
Nothing less than the future of Grand Canyon is at stake. We support the tireless efforts of SAVE THE CONFLUENCE and all those who adamantly oppose this massive development. Grand Canyon River Guides’ mission statement states: “We will act whenever a canyon natural resource is threatened or the quality of the Grand Canyon experience is compromised.” STAND WITH US AND TAKE ACTION NOW!!! Canyon and river stewards unite!!
Grand Canyon River Guides
Raging Rivers: Navajo Nation Council to Vote on Grand Canyon Escalade Project
The Navajo Nation‘s proposal to build a multi-million-dollar resort at the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers in northern Arizona has raised environmental and cultural concerns. The 420-acre tourist attraction would include a hotel, restaurants, and a gondola tramway from the rim of the Grand Canyon to an elevated river walk on the canyon floor.
Proponents of the project say it will create jobs, monitor and protect sacred sites and generate revenues for rehabilitation of the Bennett Freeze area. Opponents, which include the Hopi Tribe and Grand Canyon Trust, cite the sacred nature of the confluence, the threat to specific sacred sites and the appropriate conditions for religious activities and the fact that this is not an economic development plan that was created by or would necessarily benefit local residents.
Tony Skrelunas, Grand Canyon Trust Native America program director, says the organization supports economic development and diversification, but the potential mechanized development in the Grand Canyon is not in keeping with its principles of environmental preservation and would set a precedent for the future. “We’re working with the [Navajo] chapters in the area to develop a community-based economic development plan that is culturally and environmentally appropriate,” he says.
The agreement between the Navajo Nation and Confluence Partners LLC, the developers of the project, expired July 1. A new agreement has been signed, but requires approval from the Navajo Tribal Council before it can go into effect. That vote could come at any time.
The Arizona Corporation Commission lists R. Lamar Whitmer, who was instrumental in the development of the Hualapai Tribe’s Grand Canyon Skywalk, as the corporation’s only member. The Grand Canyon Escalade website named other partners in the project as former Navajo Nation President and current Arizona State Sen. Albert Hale; retired Judge Michael C. Nelson, legal counsel to former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah; Eunice L. Tso, a project management and permitting consultant; Keith A. Lamparter, a design and construction manager; Bernie Propst, former CFO for the Hualapai Tribe’s Grand Canyon Resort Corp.; Michele Crank, a community and government relations consultant; and financial advisor James J. Maguire, Jr.
So far, according to Rick Abasta, communications director for the Navajo Nation’s Office of the President and the Vice President, Confluence Partners has not identified any investors for the project. The Navajo Nation is considering investing several tens of millions of dollars upfront to build the infrastructure for the project. Whitmer has stated that at buildout the project could cost as much as copy billion.
On February 6, Hopi Tribal Chairman Herman G. Honanie wrote to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly requesting a meeting to discuss the proposed project. The two met on February 10 and discussed, according to Abasta, a right-of-way issue related to a fiber optics cable and the taking of eaglets. The Grand Canyon Escalade proposal was, says Hopi Cultural Preservation Office Director Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, given short shrift, with Shelly telling Honanie that the project was just in the planning stages.
Kuwanwisiwma maintains that the project would violate an intergovernmental compact signed by the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe in 2006. The compact ended a decades-long land dispute between the two tribes. Under its terms, both tribes agreed to end all litigation arising from the dispute, a step that eventually led to the opening the Bennett Freeze area to development. The Bennett Freeze, imposed in 1966 by the federal government, prohibited any new construction or repairs or improvements to existing structures or infrastructure on 1.5-million acres of land in the disputed territory, resulting in grossly substandard and unsafe living conditions for the 8,000 Navajos living there. President Obama signed the legislation that was the final step in lifting the Bennett Freeze in 2009.
The compact gives the Hopi Tribe a permanent, irrevocable permit to enter and use Navajo lands for religious practices (and gives Navajos the same right in regard to religious activities on Hopi lands). It further states that the “landowner tribe shall respect the privacy of persons engaging in religious practices and shall not observe or intrude upon religious activities.”
Kuwanwisiwma says the proposed resort, the tramway and the platforms overlooking the confluence could reveal the location of sacred sites to non-Hopis and would interfere with religious activities. “The most important thing in the compact is that both tribes committed to protect each other’s religious use areas from disturbance.” The proposed project would be built in “a very significant Hopi use area … where the Hopi people still go as part of their pilgrimages,” he says.
The very existence of the development would interfere with Hopi religious observance, says Kuwanwisiwma. “Privacy is so important [for our religious activities]. Tranquility is so important. The solace and relationship with the environment as you’re doing these religious ceremonies requires a lot of emotional well-being to feel good about it. I feel that that is what is going to be taken away if this resort. And quite frankly I think if the resort goes where it’s proposed to be, we will be prevented from getting access, period.”
The Hopi Tribe would like Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and former President Albert Hale to accept an invitation to come to the reservation and talk to the tribal council and villages about the proposal. But whether they come or not, “it’s clear that the area that they have chosen is just totally not acceptable to the Hopi Tribe,” says Kuwanwisiwma. “We feel that if the Navajo Nation Council supports this project at the confluence, they’re going to violate the provisions of the intergovernmental compact.”
Should the Navajo Nation Tribal Council approve the new agreement and should investors for the project materialize, the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade project has the potential to become yet another cause for conflict on the Colorado Plateau.
We urge you to get informed about the plans for proposed development at the Little Colorado River (called Grand Canyon
Escalade) — check out the website posted by Confluence Partners LLC, the developer for the project: http://grandcanyonescalade.com
So far, there has been a great deal of opposition to the project from community members living within the Gap/Bodaway Chapter of the Navajo Nation. The Gap/Bodaway chapter has made two resolutions opposing the development and is poised for another meeting next week.
GCRG and other organizations are tracking this issue and coordinating our efforts.
The Little Colorado River is one of the spectacular “Awe” moments in a Grand Canyon River Trip. To watch someone who has been dealing with green or brown cold water for three days gaze in amazement at the turquoise blue warm waters of the “Little C” is worth the hard work. That view will be permanently co-opted by this project.
PO Box 1934
Flagstaff, AZ 86002
(928) 773-1075 phone
(928) 773-8523 fax
Yá’át’ééh fellow river guides, boaters and Canyon lovers,
As I am writing this note, the Navajo Nation government is seriously contemplating approving a multi-million dollar tourism development at the Confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers called “Grand Canyon Escalade.” This past spring Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with Confluence Partners, LLC. to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed development which would include:
· 420 acres on the rim (resort hotel, commercial/retail space, RV park and other amenities)
· 3.5 acres down at river level (including an aerial tramway with gondolas to transport people from the rim down to the river, a restaurant, an 1100 ft. elevated “river walk” along the river, and an amphitheater).
If approved, the tribal government expects 3 million visitors as soon as 2015* on the East Rim of Grand Canyon – one of the last areas with no significant development.
Why should you be concerned?
Well, if the potential visual impact of a tramway snaking its way down the canyon walls and a restaurant at the bottom of Grand Canyon isn’t enough to concern you greatly, here are a few more reasons….
· First and foremost – this is GRAND CANYON – one of the seven NATURAL wonders of the world. It is Grand Canyon River Guides’ belief that the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River offer an experience of wildness and connection between the human spirit and the land that can be equaled in few places on earth today. We are caretakers of this wilderness experience so it is up to us to raise our voices. If the Navajo Nation government approves this development, the integrity and sanctity of the visitor experience to the Confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers will be severely compromised and degraded.
· The Little Colorado River corridor and confluence is culturally and spiritually significant to ALL of the affiliated tribes who hold Grand Canyon sacred. Grand Canyon is the place of emergence into this world for the Hopi and Zuni tribes, it is the homeland for the Navajo, Paiute, Hualapai and Havasupai peoples, and it is a living, sacred place for all affiliated tribes encompassing the springs, the plants, the animals and other resources that are such an important part of traditional and ceremonial practices.
· A fragile, delicately balanced ecosystem is at stake. Development of this magnitude cannot occur without significant adverse impacts that are exacerbated by associated problems such as light and noise pollution. The Little Colorado River confluence area is also home to the endangered humpback chub.
· The National Park Service (NPS) and the Navajo Nation disagree on the boundary issue. The NPS contends that the boundary is located one-quarter mile east from the historic high water line on the Colorado River’s eastern bank. The Department of the Interior’s Solicitor’s Opinion upholds this interpretation as does the BLM which critically reviewed the opinion during the construction of the new Marble Canyon bridge, and again found it valid. The developer contends that the boundary is where the vegetation ends at the water line.
· Navajo Nation residents in the former Bennett Freeze area are in danger of being evicted if the development moves forward. It is important to note that the Bodaway/Gap Chapter of the Navajo Nation recently voted against the proposed tourism development, so there is not a blanket mandate from the Navajo people to support this plan.
What can YOU do?
Although this issue seems so outlandish that it couldn’t possibly happen, we cannot ignore it for fail to speak out. This is not just a Navajo issue. This is a Grand Canyon protection issue we all should be concerned about and one that NEEDS your voice of opposition.
Write an email AND a letter to:
President Ben Shelly The Navajo Times
Post Office Box 7440 Highway 264 & Route 12
Window Rock, Navajo Nation, AZ 86515 Window Rock, AZ 86515–0310
We also encourage you to write a letter voicing your concerns to the Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park. We want him to know he has our support for preserving park values and resources for future generations. He must stand firm.
Superintendent David Uberuaga
Grand Canyon National Park
PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023-0129
How can you learn more about this issue?
*An AP article with the artist’s rendering of the aerial tramway can be found at: