Navajos at odds about marinas

 

ARIZONA

After 30 years of planning, the Navajo Nation's Antelope Point Marina may become a reality, despite serious concerns among tribal members.

The $60 million development, planned for the south shore of Lake Powell, occupies a piece of land that straddles the Navajo Reservation and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The project had been bogged down by disagreement within the tribe, but a new tribal council administration has made it a top priority. Now the tribe, along with the National Park Service, is evaluating a developer's proposal for the estimated 225 hotel rooms and 300 boat slips.

"The timing's right and the people are in harmony," says Fred White, with the tribe's tourism office. White says the marina will offer as many as 350 new jobs to the Navajo people, and he hopes that it will attract more development to the area.

But the development's progress has critics worried. Some say Antelope Point's impacts on water quality and archaeological sites have yet to be addressed. Glen Canyon Action Network's David Orr has asked the Park Service to conduct an environmental impact study, which would require a more exhaustive analysis than the existing environmental assessment.

Dissent continues to come from within the Navajo tribe. Thomas Morris Jr. of the Dine Medicine Men's Association is concerned that the marina will harm archaeological and ceremonial sites, as well as the water quality of Lake Powell. "We do not see this as sustainable development for our people," Morris wrote in a letter to tribal President Kelsey Begaye. "Lake Powell itself violates tribal law because it covered over many significant sacred and cultural sites beneath the waters."

Kathy Fleming of the National Park Service says the agency will take another look at the environmental effects of the project when it chooses a specific plan. Though an environmental impact statement is never out of the question, she says, the Park Service intends to continue with its environmental assessment.

Copyright 2001 HCN and Tim Sullivan

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