Cowlitz Tribe prepares for groundbreaking on casino in early 2016

Members of the Cowlitz Tribe gathered at their reservation in Washington in August 2015. Photo from Facebook

The Cowlitz Tribe of Washington has begun preliminary work on its long-delayed casino.

Chairman Bill Iyall told The Battle Ground Reflector that the tribe is aiming for a formal groundbreaking early next year. If that happens, the Cowlitz Casino and Entertainment Resort could open sometime in 2017

The work comes as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to accept final briefs in a lawsuit that challenges the tribe's land-into-trust application. Opponents -- including the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde -- are citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.

The ruling held that the Bureau of Indian Affairs can only place land in trust for tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The Cowlitz didn't gain formal recognition until 2000 but the BIA determined that the tribe met the standard.

Artist's rendering of the proposed Cowlitz Casino Resort in Washington
Artist's rendering of the proposed Cowlitz Casino and Entertainment Resort. Image from Cowlitz Indian Tribe Environmental Impact Statement

Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein of the federal court in Washington, D.C., backed the BIA's analysis in a 57-page decision last December. But the Grand Ronde Tribes and other opponents are appealing to the D.C. Circuit.

The Grand Ronde Tribes operate the Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde, Oregon. The facility draws patrons from Portland, about 60 miles away.

The Cowlitz Tribe also will compete for Portland patrons. The 152-acre reservation is only 30 miles away from Oregon's largest city.

Get the Story:
Cowlitz tribe prepares site for casino construction (The Battle Ground Reflector 9/30)
Preliminary site work for casino underway (The Columbian 9/29)

Federal Register Notice:
Land Acquisitions; Cowlitz Indian Tribe (May 8, 2013)

DOI Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014

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