KINGMAN - A federal judge has called for a temporary halt on the paving and construction of underpasses for a new alignment of Diamond Bar Road until he can hear more testimony in the ongoing dispute between Mohave County businessman Nigel Turner and the Hualapai Tribe.
Part of the new alignment of Diamond Bar Road runs through Turner's Grand Canyon Ranch tourist attraction. Diamond Bar Road is also the most used route to the Hualapai Tribe's Grand Canyon West Skywalk.
On Thursday, Judge Neil Wake granted Turner a preliminary injunction to halt the installation of new underpasses and paving on the new road alignment until the court's next hearing on the matter on Oct. 29.
However, the judge also ordered Turner to allow the public to use the old alignment of Diamond Bar Road, which also crosses his ranch, and prohibited him from charging fees to use the old road.
Turner started charging motorists a fee to use the old road alignment in May, which led to the Hualapai Tribe requesting permission from the Bureau of Land Management to open the new alignment to traffic.
"I think the judge was very fair." Turner said. "I don't agree with all of his comments, but he took two days to listen to everyone. All I ever asked for is that the contract signed in 2007 was honored and the road built in a professional manner to do the least damage to this beautiful and historic area of the Grand Canyon Plateau."
Hualapai Tribal spokesman Dave Cieslak said the Hualapai Tribe was also pleased with Wake's ruling, although for slightly different reasons.
"Let's be crystal clear: the judge ordered Turner to allow tourists on Diamond Bar Road without charging tolls or interfering with anyone heading to Grand Canyon West," Cieslak said. "We are grateful to the judge for ensuring families visiting the Grand Canyon have safe and easy access without the threat of a shakedown by Turner's armed guards. We're also appreciative that the judge denied Turner's motion to halt construction on Diamond Bar Road.
"We hope Turner will not allow his frustration about this ruling to cause yet another frightening outburst similar to his last two meltdowns, both of which ended with his arrest."
The tribe has been trying to get Diamond Bar Road paved for about 20 years. The safety of motorists on the road has been a major issue for the tribe and Mohave County.
The section of the road, which is currently under construction, is nothing more than well-graded dirt, with several switchbacks and a large hill.
Turner sued Mohave County, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management when plans to pave the road were first proposed in 2004. Turner claimed that the road would harm his business and damage archeological sites and the surrounding environment.
Turner settled the lawsuit in July 2007 and received $375,000 from the tribe's road maintenance fund and $5,000 from the U.S. Treasury Office in exchange for the rights of way for a new road easement at the edge of his property.
The settlement agreement also required the government to include underpasses in the new roadway design so that cattle could access a natural spring on the other side of the road and required contractors to replant any Joshua Trees that were removed from the roadway.
Turner claims Fann Construction, which was hired by the Hualapai Tribe, is not following the requirements of the 2007 agreement.