Cowlitz Tribe eager to start work on long-delayed casino project

Cowlitz Tribe Chairman Bill Iyall, seated on right, signs land-into-trust documents with Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Director Stan Speaks on March 9, 2015. Photo from Cowlitz Tribe

A groundbreaking hasn't been announced but the Cowlitz Tribe of Washington hopes to start work on its casino as soon as possible, Chairman Bill Iyall said.

The tribe's 152-acre reservation was placed in trust this week by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Plans call for the 134,000 square-foot Cowlitz Casino Resort to be built on a portion of the site.

“Our mantra now is to be shovel ready, and that means we’re going to try to turn the dirt and get this project underway,” Iyall told KOIN.

The Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut is financing the project. According to The New London Day, the tribe has invested $40 million so far.

Despite the BIA's decision, casino opponents -- including the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon -- are still hoping to kill the project. The case is headed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the key issue is the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.

The ruling restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. The Cowlitz didn't gain federal recognition until 2000 but the Bureau of Indian Affairs conducted a two-part test to determine whether the tribe qualified.

On December 12, Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein issued a 57-page decision that upheld the BIA's analysis.

Get the Story:
Cowlitz Tribe casino plan: ‘It’s our homeland’ (KOIN 3/12)

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