After more than two years of waiting, the Spokane Tribe – and the city and county that share its name – may know soon whether it will get the federal go-ahead to build a casino, hotel and shopping mall on the West Plains.
Several government sources said Thursday they have been told to expect a decision from the U.S. Department of the Interior in the near future, although no date has been set for the announcement. The Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Portland said the decision remains in the hands of officials in Washington, D.C.
“We’re hopeful, and we’re hoping that it will be soon,” said Alex Fryer, a tribe spokesman. But the tribe had not been told the decision was imminent.
The federal decision is not the final word on the casino. It would need a gaming compact between the tribe and the state, which would have to be approved by Gov. Jay Inslee. He has said he will wait for the report from the bureau before making a decision. The governor’s office was told earlier this week the Interior Department decision could come soon but was not given a firm date.
The tribe is proposing an economic development project to be built on tribal land across U.S. Highway 2 from Fairchild Air Force Base. It would be the second casino and hotel complex on the West Plains. The Kalispel Tribe’s Northern Quest Resort and Casino is on the other side of Airway Heights.
The proposal has split Spokane government officials. County commissioners initially had an agreement to remain neutral on the project, but later voted to rescind that agreement under urging from Greater Spokane Incorporated. The county opposed the project in the final environmental impact statement prepared by the BIA, which has listed the resort, casino and shopping area as the preferred alternative for the land.
GSI opposes the project because the business organization believes the development’s 145-foot tower will force Fairchild to change some training flight routes and make the base more vulnerable to a closure. But base officials did not raise concerns about the plans in the final environmental impact statement, and supporters say the project will create as many as 5,000 jobs and generate about $450 million in private investment in the area.
The Spokane City Council voted in 2012 to oppose the casino but last year changed its stance to neutral. The city of Airway Heights supports the proposal.
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