Controversial Development at the Confluence Takes a Step Forward

Jan 31, 2014

A proposed development project near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers is one step closer to becoming a reality. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, several key questions still remain about the controversial, multimillion-dollar development.

The confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers.
Credit "The Confluence" by George Mancuso

Last week, Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly was briefed by the Navajo Nation Department of Justice and a law firm representing the tribe. Deswood Tome, special advisor to the president, says the group discussed the master agreement that would allow the Grand Canyon Escalade project to advance.

The $120 million development would include a tramway to the bottom of the canyon and a river walk. It would also include an amphitheater, restaurant and Navajo Cultural Center. The Navajo Nation contends the project would create 2,000 jobs and generate more than $50 million annually in revenue.

But critics, including the Hopi Tribe and citizen-action group Save the Confluence, claim the development would put sites sacred to multiple Native American tribes at risk. Tome says the Navajo Nation has accounted for that.

“The sacred site is being protected and the Navajo Nation is going through great lengths to ensure that there is no desecration at all to any of the sacred site on location.”

There are also concerns about the environmental impact to the area that has scant water resources. Also at issue is where exactly the boundary exists that separates the Navajo Nation and Grand Canyon National Park.

The Escalade master agreement could go before the Navajo Nation Council for approval as early as this spring.  The developers, Confluence Partners, and the citizen-action group, Save the Confluence, were not immediately available for comment.