Supervisors decry offramp: County makes its last stand against Indian casino
The letter is in the mail.
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors approved a letter to the federal government Tuesday arguing against the construction of a U.S. Highway 50 interchange that would give access to the Miwok Rancheria near Shingle Springs, allowing the Miwoks to build a casino on their land. The move came just in time for the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Friday deadline to make comment on the issue.
The Miwoks are petitioning the Bureau of Indian Affairs to grant them a five-acre parcel of land in trust to be used to build an access road. The interchange is critical to the Miwoks’ plan to build the casino because there is currently no direct route to the rancheria. The tribe now uses a private access road that was put in by the nearby Grassy Run housing development. The causeway cannot be used for commercial traffic.
Members of the community voiced concerns about social dividends the county would have to pay to have the casino built.
“There are concerns given the fact that this casino is one freeway exit from a high school,” said Shingle Springs resident Ron Dosh. “Casinos like this attract parolees. I am concerned about the crime because my family lives in the area.”
In addition to a perceived potential for an increased crime rate, residents are concerned a casino would have an adverse environmental impact. The Miwoks conducted an environmental assessment for the building of the casino and the interchange, but county officials insist the study was incomplete. In the county letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the board noted inconsistencies in the Miwoks’ assessment of the impacts on water quality, air quality and traffic.
“The county staff found in reviewing this, the (Miwok’s environmental) assessment is incomplete in a lot of areas,” said Tom Cumpston, deputy county counsel. “We see a number of areas where severe impact is possible. Traffic trips would be a good deal higher than the estimates in the document. The air quality assessment assumes traffic rates lower than in the traffic analysis.”
The Miwoks contend that their environmental assessment was accurate, and that they have the best interests of the community in mind.
“We plan on supporting the police and fire station with all we can,” said Elaine Whitehurst, executive government liaison for the Miwoks. “We are having meetings with them. Every one of those things with our (environmental assessment) have been searched by professionals. We are going to do this venture with everyone in mind, not just the rancheria.”
Despite the feelings of El Dorado residents and the county board, the final decision as to whether to allow the interchange is up to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. All lands put into the trust of an American Indian Tribe are considered part of the rancheria and are sovereign from the U.S. government. If the Bureau of Indian Affairs transfers the land for the interchange to the tribe, construction on the casino could begin without hindrance and county officials would be left with no legal recourse.
“The main concern that I have is that the board can do nothing because the (Miwok rancheria) is a sovereign nation,” Dosh said.
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