April 12, 2014 in City

Spokane County has paid law firm $300,000 in casino fight

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Spokane County commissioners have paid a law firm $300,000 during the past 17 months in their fight against a Spokane tribal casino near Fairchild Air Force Base.

The money was used to pay Perkins Coie LLP, a law firm with expertise on tribal casino approvals, according to James Emacio, civil attorney for the county.

County commissioners last month sent a letter to Bureau of Indian Affairs officials arguing that the casino is proposed for land that would be beneath one of Fairchild’s main training flight paths, land that should be in a designated crash zone.

On Friday, supporters of the Spokane Tribe Economic Project, which seeks to build the casino, issued a statement saying that issues raised by the commissioners had already been studied as a part of the environmental impact statement submitted to BIA.

“We expect the BIA to give due consideration to the county commissioners’ latest round of comments,” the statement reads.

“However, what the county commissioners characterize as new information actually consists of matters either already in the official record – and therefore already assessed by the BIA – or well-known Air Force guidance documents that have been in existence for several years,” the statement said.

Commissioner Al French earlier this week said that the spending for outside legal help was worth it to protect Fairchild Air Force Base from encroachment by the proposed casino-resort. He said the air base generates $1.3 billion a year in economic activity for Spokane, money that would be jeopardized if the Air Force later decides to close Fairchild because of excessive encroachment.

Emacio said in an email that Perkins Coie was paid to prepare a 3-inch-thick response last year to the tribe’s environmental impact statement. The work included the expenses of consultants, he said. Last month’s letter to the BIA cost $28,000.

The county argued in that letter that an accident potential zone should be designated in the area where the tribe wants to build its casino based on a 2011 Department of Defense instruction that says, “Where multiple flight tracks exist and significant numbers of aircraft operations are on multiple flight tracks, modifications may be made to create (accident potential zones) that conform to the multiple flight tracks.”

The tribe responded by saying that Fairchild reviewed the proposed project and acknowledged that the tribe would follow development standards for building height, density, sound deadening, wildlife avoidance, light and glare.

“At the end of the day, the County Commissioners claim the BIA should listen to them when it comes to STEP’s compatibility with Fairchild Air Force Base, but the law says the BIA must instead listen to the Air Force,” read Friday’s statement from the tribe.

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