Grand Canyon tram project stalls before Navajo council vote

AP News
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Posted: Apr 23, 2017 2:35 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — A project to build a 1.6-mile tram that would take visitors into the Grand Canyon is on hold for a few months after failing to gain enough support from Navajo Nation lawmakers.

The proposal must go through four committees before the tribal council votes. Two committees voted it down, a third wanted to table it and another, in which the whole council will debate the project, had not yet considered it before the spring session ended last week, The Arizona Republic reported (http://bit.ly/2p9V93r ).

The council could approve the measure even if the committees do not. But Larry Foster, a former Navajo council member and political adviser, said the measure is struggling for broad backing.

"They don't have the votes. I think until they do, it's not in their interest to bring it to the council," said Roger Clark, of the group Grand Canyon Trust.

The project calls for building a tram that would drop 3,200 feet into the canyon, taking visitors from the rim to the Colorado River in about 10 minutes. It also calls for building commercial and retail space, a multimedia complex, a river walk and administrative buildings.

Supporters say the project would bring jobs to the cash-strapped reservation, while opponents say it could desecrate the region and turn the Grand Canyon into an amusement park.

The council could still vote on the proposal during the summer session, which starts July 17.

Council members have questioned the cost of the proposal in committee meetings. The Navajo Nation must come up with $65 million to start the project and will receive 8 to 18 percent of gross revenue, while the rest goes to outside investors.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com