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Requests granted; casino decision pushed back to May

Sat., March 2, 2013

Several groups want more time to comment on the proposal

A federal decision on the proposed tribal casino on the West Plains will be delayed until at least May 1.

The U.S. Department of Interior has granted several requests for additional time to make comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement. Last month that statement listed a casino, resort and retail development as the preferred alternative for land owned by the Spokane Tribe.

The department got at least three requests for a delay, from Spokane County, the city of Cheney and Greater Spokane Incorporated, a spokesman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs said. The county’s request for more time to raise objections to the development was supported by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and the Spokane Tribe said it wouldn’t object to one more delay for additional comments.

“We believe it is time for deliberation and decision,” tribal Chairman Rudy Peone wrote. “Nevertheless, the tribe will not oppose one last, brief extension to allow for your consideration of additional comments.”

The tribe has purchased 145 acres just west of Airway Heights and east of Fairchild Air Force Base, on the north side of Highway 2. It has proposed a casino, 300-room hotel and stores be built on the property.

The base, which cooperated with the preparation of the impact statement, is officially neutral on the project, but county officials say they worry it will be considered encroachment, making it harder to get the new Air Force tankers based there and easier to close the facility if Congress orders base closures.

After the Interior Department issues a record of decision, Gov. Jay Inslee would have the final say on the casino portion of the project.

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