Wilton Rancheria takes a huge step forward with casino project

Artist's rendering of the Wilton Rancheria's resort project in Elk Grove, California. Image by Wilton Rancheria With just a few weeks left in the Obama administration, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is delivering an early but well-earned holiday present to the Wilton Rancheria.

Seven years after being restored to federal recognition and three years after starting the land-into-trust process, the tribe has essentially secured permission to open a $400 million casino in northern California. The BIA just completed the final environmental impact statement for the project, the last step before a 36-acre site in Elk Grove can be acquired as the tribe's first official homeland.

"The Proposed Action consists of transferring the approximately 36 acres of property and the subsequent development of the Proposed Project," a notice that will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday reads. "The Proposed Project would contain approximately 110,260 square-feet (sf) of gaming floor area, a 12-story hotel with approximately 302 guest rooms, a 360-seat buffet, 60-seat pool grill, other food and beverage providers, retail area, a fitness center, spa, and an approximately 48,000 sf convention center."

The public will be able to submit comments before the BIA issues a record of decision to place the land in trust. But with just 37 days left before President Barack Obama leaves office, the agency is cutting it close if it intends to take action before January 20, 2017.

Historically, last-minute decisions by an outgoing administration have been subject to delays and additional reviews by a new one. Republican president-elect Donald Trump has expressed willingness to do just that within his first 100 days in office although he hasn't said anything with respect to Indian gaming or Indian issues at all for that matter.

Trump will get to pick a new Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to lead the BIA. That person will play a huge rule in making decisions on gaming projects across the nation.

Trump has not officially announced his pick for Secretary of the Interior but has been expected to name Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington). She fought a casino project in her state.

Forthcoming Federal Register Notice:
Final Environmental Impact Statement and a Revised Draft Conformity Determination for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (To Be Published December 14, 2016)

Federal Register Notices:
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 29, 2015)
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 4, 2013_

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