Mayor: tribal report is premature

City requests further discussion as tribe plans for local casino

Mayor: tribal report is prematureBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

As the Timbisha Shoshone tribe moves forward with plans to open a casino in Ridgecrest, city officials have identified multiple issues that remain unaddressed in previous negotiations between the city and the tribe.

The tribe presented its Tribal Environmental Impact Report at an informational meeting to discuss some of the economic and environmental ramifications of the tribe acquiring roughly 25 acres of property in Ridgecrest for a casino, restaurants and potentially an entertainment complex.

The tribal report yielded few negative impacts, withinput and comments requested through Jan. 31.

In a letter signed by Mayor Peggy Breeden, the city responded on Jan. 26, pointing out that the land has yet to be taken into trust by the federal government, and there has been no tribal-state compact regarding a gaming facility.

“In the city’s view, the environmental document released by the tribe is not an actual TEIR,” says the letter, “and is both untethered to any enforcement mechanism and premature.”

“We’re reserving the right to respond further down the road,” said City Manager Ron Strand. “Our position is that we need to make sure we’re covering everything that needs to be covered. We have an attorney that the city has retained to assist us in tribal matters and give us a little bit of help to navigate all the things that are going on.”

The letter goes on to outline specific concerns the city still has that are not discussed in the Municipal Services Agreement – a 2016 agreement between the city and the tribe when the land sale was originally approved.

Important issues that remain unaddressed according to the city include the complying with local marijuana ordinances, refraining from water exports, refraining from acquiring further lands in the city and agreeing to restriction on certain retail sales, such as gasoline or automotive parts.

Many of these topics have come up in past meetings where Tribal Chair George Gholson and casino developer Nigel White have both said the tribe has no intention of selling marijuana, drilling wells or otherwise violating the city’s wishes. White has called some of these concerns “ridiculous.”

Notions that the tribe has plans outside of the proposed casino project have been heavily criticized by casino supporters.

But the tribe’s marijuana activities in Death Valley — in addition to legal disputes over water rights across California (the Agua Caliente tribe successfully sued the Coachella Valley Water District for water rights in 2013) — have spurred some participants to request firm assurances from the tribe.

The city canceled this week’s Tribal-City Advisory Committee meeting. See future editions for more information.

Story First Published: 2018-02-02