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Continuing the thread on the possible approval by the BIA of the Spokane Tribe's proposed casino in Airway Heights, here's a little online discussion covering the debate over how gambling helps or hurts city economies.
It's on Huffington Post. It's not long, it's a bit scattershot, and it totally avoids the local issues involved in this community, the tribal history of gambling and the need for economic diversity among tribal governments.
The BIA hasn't said when it will make the formal "record of decision" on the request. If approved by the Interior Department, the request then needs the approval of Gov. Jay Inslee.
The key section of the recently released Bureau of Indian Affairs environmental impact statement summarizes why the proposed Spokane Tribe casino and project doesn't impede or endanger the operation of Fairchild Air Force Base, west of town. A major argument cited by critics was the fear that future Base Relocation and Closure reviews would lead to a reduction in operations at Fairchild.
The proposed casino would be about 1.5 miles away from the main gate of Fairchild.
The attached document (linked below) is the third chapter which is the BIA comments and responses.
The pages worth looking at are 3-13 through 3-18.
Here's the summarized response:
"For the reasons described above and in Section 4.9 of the Final EIS, the Proposed Project would have no impact on Fairchild AFB’s military value based on the evaluation criteria historically used by past BRAC committees to develop recommendations for base realignment and closure.
As described in Section 4.9 of the Final EIS, implementation of the Proposed Project would not encroach upon Fairchild AFB’s available air space or impede its ability to implement the operational and training mission of the installation because:
1) with the implementation of mitigation recommended in Section 5.0 of the Final EIS the Proposed Project would not create an air navigation hazard or otherwise impede Fairchild AFB operations;
2) the Tribe has agreed to accept any inconveniences associated with AFB operations during operation of the Proposed Project; and 3) the Fairchild AFB has confirmed that it will not alter its flight patterns in response to complaints from the Tribe related to nuisances on the project site. Therefore, with identified mitigation measures contained in Section 5.0, the Proposed Project is not considered an “encroachment” that would make Fairchild AFB vulnerable to closure"
It cannot be news or much of a shock to learn the Spokane County commissioners unanimously voted to express opposition to the proposed Spokane Tribe casino and resort, on land they bought and which was annexed to the City of Airway Heights.
Scroll down to the bottom of this text box to read the full nine-page document. It's long and legalistic.
For the record, we want to add the view of Airway Heights city officials, who are contending that a threatened suit by the County had little to do with their agreeing to let the county out of the 2010 deal that curtailed the right to comment on the casino plan.
Mayor Pat Rushing told us that the county was able to terminate the 2010 agreement only when it fully agreed to give up all claims on any revenue the tribe would provide to the city and county, once the casino would open.
Rushing did contact The Spokesman-Review on Friday, the day the first story appeared. Rushing said it would be inaccurate to say the lawsuit forced Airway Heights to terminate the deal. l
An Aiway Heights press release that went out on Thursday last week failed to clarify the reason for the change in plans on the city's part. Rushing said the expectation was to explain the reasons after the release went out.
But Rushing wasn't called by the media that day. That allowed allowed the commissioners to make the assertion about a lawsuit unchallenged.
News from our SR West Plains bureau: the City of Airway Heights announced on Friday it's formally annexed the 145 acres the Spokane Tribe hopes to use to develop its Spokane Tribe of Indians Economic Project (STEP).
Critics have seen otherwise. Many have said the proposal would potentially create encroachment that would cause the Air Force to alter flight paths, and possibly even reduce the Fairchild Air Force Base mission.
The Spokane Tribe is holding a press conference Friday at its SpoKo store in Airway Heights on Friday to talk about the release of the environmental impact statement for its proposed casino in Airway Heights.
Releasing the EIS is the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Copies of the statement, which offers detailed statements on what the tribe said will be the impacts of a casino, will be available at the Spokane Public Library and on the Federal Register (federalregister.gov).
An overview of the project can be found at this link.
What needs to happen next: the Tribe needs formal approval of its casino proposal from the Department of the Interior. It's seeking the unusual option of starting a casino on non-reservation land, an issue that tribal opponents have said will create a precedent leading to many more tribal casinos across the country.
The tribe would also need to negotiate a compact with the state of Washington before it can proceed.