Escalade bill on Oct. 10 Navajo Council Law & Order Committee proposed agenda

The Navajo Nation Council Law and Order Committee is holding an Oct. 10 meeting, not a hearing, on proposed legislation for the Council to approve the development of the Grand Canyon Escalade Project at the Twin Arrows Casino & Resort near Flagstaff.

Law and Order Committee Chairperson and Council Delegate Raymond Smith said last week that Legislation 0293-16, which seeks to have the Council approve the development of the $230 million Escalade Project, is on the committee’s agenda and so the committee will be debating its approval, disapproval or tabling of it.

Legislation 0293-16 is the only item of the proposed Oct. 10 agenda of the Law and Order Committee.

ccording to standing committee rules, the disapproval or tabling of legislation, such as 0293-16, would not stop it from moving through the legislation process.

In the case of 0293-16, its final destination is the Council but before it gets to the Council for final action, it must go before the Law and Order Committee first and then the Resources and Development Committee, the Budget and Finance Committee, the Naabik’iyati Committee and finally the Council.

Smith said the committee decided to hold its Oct. 10 meeting at Twin Arrows Casino & Resort and include 0239-16 on its proposed Oct. 10 meeting agenda because Twin Arrows to closer to the impacted area of the proposed Escalade project than Window Rock.

He added that the committee is also aware of the huge amount of local and national opposition to the Escalade project, which is another reason the committee meeting is at Twin Arrows.

Smith said the Twin Arrows had very large conference meeting rooms.

According to the Sept.. 29 electronic public comment section of 0293-16, there were a total of 51,913 comments opposing 0293-16 and 5,961 comments supporting it.

On Sept. 9, 4,409 individuals signed a petition opposing the Escalade project. Other opposing comments to the Escalade project legislation included a petition with 68 signatures from the Navajo Shepherd community, which is located on the east rim of the Grand Canyon.

There are also three letters and 3,640 emails opposing 0239-16, which is electronically posted on the legislative services website for public comments.

The Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Services did not attach the petitions, letters and emails to the electronic copy of 0293-16 and so the reasons for opposing 0293-16 area unknown.

The same is true of 123 letters from the Bodaway/Gap Chapter and eight emails of support for 0293-16.

The public can continue to submit their comments to the legislative services up until final action is taken on the legislation.

Save the Confluence, a grass-roots Navajo organization from the area of the proposed Escalade project, has posted a petition opposing 0293-16 and the Escalade project on the internet. According to the website, the petition has 29,825 signatures.

According to 0293-16, it seeks to have the Council approve a 180-page master agreement with the Confluence Partners for the development of the Grand Canyon Escalade Project; a $65 million loan with Sacred Wind for the development of offsite infrastructure to the Escalade project; an authorization for the Navajo Nation Hospitality Enterprise to enter into a development and operating agreement with the Confluence Partners for the Escalade project, and accept the approval of the Bodaway/Gap Chapter to withdraw 420 acres of its land for Escalade project.

The proposed $230 million Grand Canyon Escalade Project is a prospective tourism destination featuring a gondola tramway from the rim to the floor of the Grand Canyon; a Riverwalk; amphitheater, food pavilion; Navajoland Discovery Center; hotels, and recreational vehicle park, which would all be located on the western edge of the Navajo Reservation at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers.

But according to a Dec. 18, 2014, legal analysis of the Escalade project master plan by the Nation’s Department of Justice, “The National Park Service has challenged the boundary of the Navajo Nation in the area that the tram would occupy. Neither the master agreement, nor the Council resolution, nor any of the ancillary documents provide a mechanism for resolving this dispute in a timely fashion.”

The Dec. 18, 2014, legal analysis, which is identified as “Attorney Client Privileged and 2 Navajo Nation Code section 110 (F) Confidential Material,” was publicly release by the current Department of Justice and attached to 0239-16.

Acting Justice Department Acting Deputy Attorney General Rodgerick T. Begay stated in an Aug. 24, memo to Chief Legislative Counsel Levon Henry that the Dec. 18, 2014, legal analysis indicated numerous legal issues with the proposed master agreement.

Begay stated that he waived the attorney-client privilege “because I find that the legal concerns still remain in the draft master agreement. The committees and the Navajo Nation Council ought to be fully aware of the concerns raised by DOJ in that (Dec. 18, 2014) memorandum when considering this proposed legislation.”

According to the Confluence Partners’ Navajo Nation Council Briefing Book August 2016, which is attached to 0293-16, the partners are R. Lamar Whitmer of Fulcrum Group; Arizona Rep. Albert A. Hale; Eunice L. Tso of LeChee Chapter; Jennifer Taliman of TallSalt Advisors, Scottsdale; Darrell Metzger of Khazanah Nasional; Keith A. Lamparter, president and founder of KLI Companies; Bernie Propst, former chief financial officer for the Hualapai Indians’ Grand Canyon Resort Corporation; Peter M. K. Kaanapu Jr., former senior vice president for marketing and planning at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii; Michael V. Lee of Magic Learning Destinations Productions, and Jack Gilmore of Gilmore Planning and Landscape.

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