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Tue, July 16

Coal spurs the Grand Canyon tram debate

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

FLAGSTAFF (AP) – The impending closure of a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation could lend momentum to a project being considered by tribal leaders to build a tram at the Grand Canyon to fill the economic void.

The Grand Canyon Escalade project was brought up to Navajo Nation lawmakers and tribal members last fall by former Navajo Nation President Albert Hale as a solution to shrinking revenues from nonrenewable energies. Now, with the Navajo Generating Station looking less likely to be open through 2019, Hale's forecast is starting to play out.

The tram's developer predicts the tribe's cut of annual revenues would total between $18.8 million and $62.9 million. These revenues would rival what the power plant brings in annually. But some people in the area are not OK with developers using the power plant's impending closure to advocate for the tram.

"My relatives are being impacted by NGS, and the Escalade partners were hoping to take advantage of that as an incentive for the Navajo Nation to consider their project," said Renae Yellowhorse, an employee with Save the Confluence, a nonprofit opposing the tram.

Hale, who is now a partner with Confluence Partners, said he thinks the coal plant's dim future is serious enough where it should help the argument for the tram.


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