Tiny town outside Grand Canyon outlines its future

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2014 at 6:25 pm •  Published: February 28, 2014
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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A tiny town that credits its existence to the Grand Canyon has put together a 10-year wish list of sorts for recreation, public services, transportation and development.

But it's what is not in Tusayan's general plan that has drawn the criticism of its neighbors — a water source for growth.

Gone are the days when collecting rain water and snow melt met the needs of farmers and ranchers just outside the canyon's South Rim, with water hauling meeting additional demands. The hundreds of residents of Tusayan now rely on wells, but officials at the Grand Canyon, American Indian tribes and environmentalists say additional pumping could harm seeps and springs in the area.

The Italian company proposing the majority of growth in Tusayan hasn't said exactly what water source it will use to support a dude ranch, high-end boutiques, five-star hotels, hundreds of homes and a high-density shopping area off the highway that takes most visitors to the Grand Canyon. Stilo Development Group USA spokesman Andy Jacobs said Friday that those plans won't come to full fruition for years or even decades.

"We certainly understand that water is a scarce resource in that area, so we don't think anybody is overly concerned about where we're getting our water," he said. "It's an important issue. We're doing due diligence to try to do the right thing on water. The criticism may be overly harsh when we haven't made a decision yet."

The Tusayan Planning and Zoning Commission closed out the public comment period on the general plan this week. In its comments, the National Park Service predicted that Tusayan's water use would nearly quadruple over the next decade, from 175 acre-feet per year to 681 acre-feet per year, under development cited in the plan. That includes 142 acres of commercial development, 1,874 multi-family dwellings, 543 single-family dwellings and 300 dormitories.

The Grand Canyon's chief of resource management, Martha Hahn, said along with an unidentified water resource and development that doesn't mesh with the surrounding environment, the park is concerned about an increase of visitors that would further strain its resources.