Casino halted: Review by EPA ordered

By Kate Reardon

Herald Writer

TULALIP — Crews working on a new casino, shops and an amusement park for the Tulalip Tribes will have to stop so a federal agency can review the project’s effects on the environment. U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein this week ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to prepare an environmental impact statement showing how the project will affect traffic, air and water quality, and fish and wildlife.

Rothstein’s ruling follows a July 18 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by tribal member Guy Madison, who contends the EPA did not study the environmental impacts of the Quil Ceda Village project, as required by the Clean Water Act.

It’s not clear how soon construction work will stop.

There was no stop-work order included in the ruling, and tribal leaders are discussing what the ruling means, said John McCoy, Tulalip governmental affairs director and acting city manager for Quil Ceda Village.

The Tulalips have incorporated the business park under tribal law as a city, which is to be run by an all-Tulalip city council.

A Wal-Mart, Home Depot and gas station already anchor the 495-acre development, where construction work on the new $72 million casino began in the summer.

Madison’s Seattle attorney, Claudia Newman, said the ruling makes sense.

"The most important point is that to have a good government, and a successful government, the government has to open itself up to criticism and adhere to the rules in place, and that’s what our goal has been, to ensure the proper process has been followed," Newman said. "We are happy to see the laws are finally going to be adhered to and that the impacts of this enormous development will be reviewed."

But McCoy said the Tulalips had sought all tribal and federal permits known to them to develop land and assess and mitigate all impacts to the environment.

"The tribes remain confident that all known federal requirements are being followed, and remain committed to strict adherence," he said. "The tribes will cooperate and comply with any requirement for environmental review by the EPA."

He said the Tulalips want a development that addresses environmental impacts and also builds a strong economy for its people.

Newman said another issue is that the tribes have withheld information about the project from one of its tribal members. Newman said she and Madison have been trying to get basic information on traffic studies and building plans for more than a year.

McCoy said the Tulalips had public meetings about the project and tribal members have been kept apprised of the developments through the tribal newspaper and other documents.

Rothstein’s ruling will allow for more access to information by the community, Newman said.

In the lawsuit, Madison contends the millions of vehicles a year expected to visit Quil Ceda Village will have a negative impact on his development, 19-home subdivision on 10 acres about a quarter-mile south of Quil Ceda.

Madison unsuccessfully bid on the contract with the tribe for a minimall in the village. Another entity, primarily non-Indian, was selected, even though a tribal employment rights ordinance gives preference to American Indians.

Newman said the contract has nothing to do with Madison’s lawsuit, but that she brought up the issue to show the Tulalips didn’t follow their own process.

Madison also sued the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which gave the Tulalips a $850,000 grant to extend a road to bring customers to the village.

"We also filed a claim against the Bureau of Indian Affairs (and requested) that they had to do an (environmnetal study), and that issue has not yet been resolved," Newman said. "It’s unclear at this stage how that will play out."

You can call Herald Writer Kate Reardon at 425-339-3455

or send e-mail to reardon@heraldnet.com.

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