Confluence residents oppose development plan

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, March 15th, 2012

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A coalition of home-site lease and grazing permit holders on the cliff above the spectacular confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers say they feel "backstabbed" by President Ben Shelly's recent announcement that he has signed an agreement to build a resort on the east rim of the Grand Canyon.

The group has invited Shelly to a public meeting Saturday, March 17, at 9 a.m. at the Quality Inn in Tuba City to explain his position and listen to residents' concerns. Shelly reportedly has accepted the invitation.

In a press release, the stakeholders say Shelly last summer led them to believe he would not agree to any development without the locals' approval.

"Then, he said, 'It was a sacred place. It's a beautiful place,''' said stakeholder Francis Martin. "Today, it's something else. I feel he backstabbed us because he changed his mind. I don't know what changed his mind. I thought he was going to be behind us all the way."

In its press release, the group states it has learned Shelly signed a memorandum of agreement with The Fulcrum Group LLC of Scottsdale, Ariz., to explore the possibility of a tramway, a resort hotel and an airport on the canyon rim.

A written statement from the President's office, however, did not name the company or identify the project, merely stating it would be a "world-class development ... in the chapter boundary of Gap-Bodaway, just west of the former Bennett Freeze at the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado rivers."

Asked for a copy of the MOA, Shelly's spokesman Erny Zah said he was asked not to release it "because it's an important project and release of too much information may impede the project's potential for initial investors."

On Tuesday the Navajo Times hand-delivered a formal request for the MOA to the president's office and Navajo Nation Attorney General D. Harrison Tsosie. As of press time Wednesday, there was no reply.

The stakeholders say in their release they have not seen the MOA either, in spite of repeated requests for it.

"The Confluence stakeholders can only speculate that Fulcrum Group LLC, and Navajo Nation are holding the MOU hostage because they want to deceive investors into thinking that residents, home-site lease owners, and grazing permit holders support their project," the release states. "This is not true."

According to the release, "Most affected are objecting to the proposed development because both the tribe and the private development group are refusing to work with them, and have stated that they have no intention of helping the people benefit from any economic development."

Shelly's statement says the development will benefit the area by bringing in 2,000 jobs and tourist traffic.

Neither LaMar Whitmer nor Albert Hale of the Fulcrum Group returned a phone call by press time Wednesday.

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