Miwok Indian casino proposal denied access | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Miwok Indian casino proposal denied access

by Timothy Bowman

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors today will consider strengthening its stance against plans for an access road that would make way for a new Indian casino.

The Miwok Indian tribe wants to build a casino on its rancheria near Shingle Springs, but without access to it, it would not be economically viable. The tribe has petitioned the Interior Department to put five acres of land under the trust of the tribe to build an interchange to the rancheria.

The board sent its unanimous disapproval of the Miwok tribe plan to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in July on the basis that the construction of a casino would diminish the quality of life in the Shingle Springs area. The supervisors now likely will question the Miwoks’ January environmental impact report before Friday’s deadline to comment.

“We see a number of very significant unexamined factors in that environmental review, those being traffic, air quality and the impacts of wastewater,” said Tom Cumpston, Deputy County Counsel. “We are saying that this environmental assessment should only be the first step and that the Department of the Interior should now prepare a full environmental impact statement. We can comment all we want, but in the end it is up to the Department of the Interior to make the final decision on whether this goes ahead.”

Executive Government Liaison for the Miwoks, Elaine Whitehurst, said that the petition is primarily about the tribe getting unrestricted access to their land.

“This has nothing to do with the casino,” Whitehurst said. “We are trying to get access in and out of our rancheria. We have followed all the federal regulations and the state and county (to begin work on the interchange.) We’re trying to survive here. We have no economic development on the rancheria.”

The tribe’s only access to its rancheria is a road built by the Grassy Run Housing Authority for a housing development adjacent to the Miwok land. The housing authority has refused to let the tribe use the road for commercial access.

“The tribe may not have commercial traffic going across Grassy Run Road,” said Elaine Christian, assistant to the District 3 County Supervisor Carl Borelli. “The road is the only way into the reservation. They have no direct access to their land. They can go in and out for their homes, but it is very restrictive.”

“The final decision is made at the federal level,” Christian said. “The (county’s) comments will go back to the federal government and then they will hold public comments on that. The (county supervisors) are very concerned about this but it is not their jurisdiction.”

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