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Bill To Build Grand Canyon Tram Goes Before Navajo Lawmakers


The Navajo Nation Council will hold a special session next week to consider a bill allowing a controversial development project on the rim of the Grand Canyon. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the Grand Canyon Escalade would include a gondola to the Colorado River. 

According to the Navajo Speaker’s Office, the legislation is the only item on Tuesday’s agenda. It would require the tribe invest $65 million in the project slated for the Grand Canyon’s east rim on the Navajo Nation.

The Escalade’s proposed aerial tram would shuttle visitors more than 3,000 feet down to the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. The plan also includes a hotel, restaurant and other tourist attractions. 

The bill was introduced last year, but hasn’t gained broad support among lawmakers. The developer, Confluence Partners, says the Escalade will create jobs and boost the tribe’s economy. But others say it’ll destroy a sacred area. The Hopi Tribe believes their ancestors emerged from the confluence of the rivers.

The project would require the approval of two-thirds of council delegates. 

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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