Tribe’s status affirmed in federal court
County fails to stop hotel, casino proposed for Shingle Springs
By Gregory Crofton
Tribune staff writer
A judge has affirmed the status of the Shingle Spring band of Miwok Indians as a tribe recognized by the federal government.
The ruling, made by a federal judge in Sacramento, moves the band of Indians a step closer to constructing a hotel and casino on tribal lands off Highway 50 at Shingle Springs.
An attorney for El Dorado County filed a lawsuit challenging the federal status of the tribe, granted in 1996, as part of an effort to stop construction of a large hotel-casino complex. Judge Garland Burrell Jr. on Friday ruled that the county failed to file its challenge within six years, as required by the state’s statute of limitations.
The county wants to stop the project because of the traffic it would generate and the impact it would have on the county’s rural quality.
“The casino environmental assessment states that the ‘hotel and casino complex’ will occupy 381,250 square feet,” according to a statement released by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors. “That’s about seven times the size of the average full size supermarket … and about three times the size of the Wal-Mart that just opened on Missouri Flat Road.”
Nicholas Fonseca, chairman of the Shingle Springs’ Miwoks, said the judge’s decision makes clear that the county’s legal expenses are a waste of taxpayer money.
“The county decided to cook up claims in March 2003 and say that we are not a tribe and the Rancheria is not a reservation,” Fonseca said in a statement. “It was clear to the judge that the only reason they were making these claims is to deprive the tribe of its right to develop its economic interests.”
Another key hearing for the county and the Shingle Springs band of Miwok Indians is scheduled this week in Sacramento County Superior Court.
A judge on Friday will review a revised and expanded environmental impact report from Caltrans regarding construction of a highway interchange needed to access the Rancheria. The county filed a lawsuit against the environmental impact report saying it contains insufficient air quality analysis.
If the judge rules against the county, the Board of Supervisors has already approved a motion to appeal the decision to a higher court, according to Ed Knapp, El Dorado County’s chief assistant counsel.
Knapp did not return phone calls to the Tribune on Tuesday.
– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org