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Tribal land near Grand Canyon suffers extensive flood damage

Tribal land near Grand Canyon suffers extensive flood damage

SUPAI, Ariz. — An American Indian tribe whose land lies deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon has issued a disaster declaration after extensive flooding forced the evacuation of tourists.

The Havasupai reservation is known for its towering blue-green waterfalls that draw tourists from around the world. Earlier this month, it was hit by floodwaters that swept through Havasu Canyon and sent tourists scurrying to higher ground.

The Havasupai tribe said Thursday that rock slides and mud cut off access to a 10-mile hiking trail that goes through Supai village to the campground. The mule train that delivers mail also has been halted.

The tribe spent $25,000 to feed, clothe and evacuate about 200 people who stayed overnight in a community building in the village. Emergency repairs to the hiking trail and in the village and campground are expected to top $250,000 — a cost the tribe said it cannot shoulder without outside help.

The tribe’s disaster declaration was approved July 17 and is needed for the tribe to request financial help from the federal government.

“The unstable and dangerous conditions of the affected areas and our tribe’s limited resources necessitate the need for federal assistance,” tribal Chairwoman Muriel Coochwytewa said in a news release.

Footbridges collapsed, tents were buried in sand and debris strewn about as water rushed through the canyon late July 11 and before dawn July 12. Campers sought refuge on benches, in trees and in caves. The existing waterfalls turned a muddy brown, and new ones emerged from the steep walls of the canyon.

No one was seriously injured.

Crews are working to remove boulders, trees, debris and abandoned camping gear and rebuild footbridges and parts of the hiking trail, tribal spokeswoman Abbie Fink said.

The tribe is asking for donations for workers, including cots, shade tents, sand bags, shovels, gloves, rakes and other tools.

Supplies are being delivered via helicopter, the only way in and out of the reservation currently.

The closure of the reservation is an economic hit for the tribe that relies on tourism. It plans to reopen the campground and a lodge Sept. 1.

Published at Fri, 27 Jul 2018 05:01:30 +0000