Stand Up For California to BIA - Proposed Elk Grove Casino Site Encumbered, Community Not Properly Notified

September 28, 2016 |  

In a detailed 14-page letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Stand Up For California, a statewide organization focused on gaming issues, has said the Wilton Rancheria's proposed casino cannot be put into trust which is required for the development to proceed in Elk Grove (see entire document below).

The Wilton Rancheria has proposed building a $400-million casino-resort on a 36-acre parcel that is now part of unfinished Outlet Collection at Elk Grove shopping center. The shopping center is currently owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation.

Among the arguments SUFC presents is that the BIA  has not properly notified the affected community and the agency is using the environmental impact study (EIS) utilized for the previously proposed casino site in Galt, Calif. 

The document states, "At the federal level, BIA cannot rely on a draft EIS it created for a different trust request to support a decision to acquire land in Elk Grove. Not only would that approach violate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, it would defeat one of NEPA’s two key purposes—the opportunity for public notice and meaningful participation."

SUFC also argues that the proposed site is encumbered by a development agreement that has not been addressed in the draft EIS and has not been resolved at a local level. Although the Elk Grove Planning Commission on September 15 voted to release HHC from the development agreement, the matter has not been taken up by the Elk Grove City Council who will make the final determination. 

The SUFC document comes as the Elk Grove City Council will deliberate a memorandum of understanding with the Wilton Rancheria regarding the fees that will be paid to the city from the effects the casino will have on the community. That matter will be discussed at tonight's City Council meeting.

Among several items the document asserts that have not been adequately addressed are traffic considerations. It notes the EIS for Galt site was based on 3,500 parking spaces while the Elk Grove site has 1,690 dedicated to the casino and parking for the shopping center once it is open. The letter says "The draft EIS does not appear to take into account the impacts to the proposed outlet mall of a reduction of almost 2,000 parking spaces available to mall patrons."

Another concern the document discusses is the nearby Suburban Propane storage tanks. As the largest aboveground propane storage facility in North America, the tanks have a long history of controversy in the development of the shopping center.    

Referencing studies cited in the Federal trial of two men convicted of plotting to blow up the tanks in the late 1990's, the document noted that the facility is less a half-mile away from the proposed casino and within the fatal blast radius. 

At that trial, the document says "The director of the Chemical-Biological National Security Program at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, one of the world's foremost experts on explosions, testified that if the plot had been successful, a "gigantic fireball" would have caused injuries and damage up to 1.2 miles away, including fatal injuries to roughly 50 percent of the people in the blast radius, and fatalities and injuries up to 0.8 miles from the explosion."

In closing, the document also claims the societal effects the casino could have on Elk Grove have not been addressed. "The draft EIS also fails to give any estimate of the possible range of increases in societal problems that may result from the proposed casino, including problem gambling, divorce, suicide, prostitution, bankruptcy, and demand for social services."

In a separate letter sent to the Elk Grove City Council, SUFC Director Cheryl Schmit has requested the MOU that is to be deliberated at tonight's meeting be continued. 

“The City must delay this vote and hold a public informational hearing providing citizens the opportunity to voice their views," Schmit said. "The City Council of Elk Grove should be asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs name it a “cooperating agency” in the National Environmental Policy Act process.  City Officials and local residents need time to digest and consider the long-term effects on the environmental, social and financial health of the city that this project will bring,”  

Tonight's City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m.

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