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Staff photo by Karen Jonas
A sign depicting the proposed Barstow Casino stands in front of the property on Lenwood Road near the Hampton Inn Friday. A draft environmental impact statement was released Friday.

Barstow casino takes step forward

STAFF WRITER
:

Public hearing for Barstow Casino
• Meeting will discuss the draft environmental impact statement for the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno gaming casino in Barstow.
• July 27 at 6 p.m.
• Held at Barstow Community College Gymnasium, 2700 Barstow Road, Barstow
• Written comments must be received by September 14, 2011.
• Mail written comments to Amy Dutschke, Regional Director, Pacific Regional Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825
• To read the draft environmental impact statement, visit http://www.loscoyoteseis.com/
• To learn more about the project, visit http://www.barstowcasinosandresort.com/

7/1/2011: This story has been updated with additional information.

BARSTOW • Nearly a full decade after it was first proposed, an Indian gaming casino that would be located near the Barstow outlets has received a new breath of life after a draft environmental impact statement was released Friday.

The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians — who have a reservation in a rural and mountainous area of San Diego County — first began plans for a casino near the Lenwood outlets in 2001. The project stalled in 2008 after the Department of Interior issued a memorandum that required off-reservation gaming casinos to be located within a "commutable distance" of the tribe's reservation.

The application for the Los Coyotes casino in Barstow was rejected because of the new requirement, and the tribe filed another application in May 2008, said Suzanne Schaeffer — a lawyer working on the land trust application for the tribe.

Earlier this month, the Department of the Interior rescinded the memorandum and announced that it will move forward to process pending off-reservation gaming applications based on current federal law, according to a prepared statement from the Department of the Interior.

The Los Coyotes casino will have to undergo a "two-part" test in order to put the land — currently owned by BarWest Gaming, Inc. — into federal trust and allow the casino to be constructed, said Schaeffer. Under the Indian Gaming and Regulation Act, the tribe must prove that off-reservation gaming is in the best interest of the tribe and is not detrimental to the surrounding community and the governor also has to approve the project.

The tribe also has to pass National Environmental Policy Act requirements, which includes the passage of a final environmental impact statement.

The Department of the Interior stated that only five tribes have gained approval for off-reservation gaming in the 23 years since the gaming act was passed.

For Los Coyotes spokesman Shane Chapparosa, the draft environmental impact statement released on Friday is the start of better lives for tribe members. The tribe’s remote location means that many tribe members didn’t receive electricity until about 10 years ago.

“We can live our lives a little better,” said Chapparosa. “It’s heartwarming to see that we’ve overcome this big hurdle.”

Councilman Tim Silva also praised the release of the draft environmental impact statement.

“It’s a big step forward,” said Silva. “Of course, there’s still a ways to go.”

A timeline released by BarWest shows that it will be over a year before the land can be put into trust, and the tribe and city still have to get approval from Gov. Jerry Brown before it can begin construction.

More information on the casino can be found at http://www.barstowcasinosandresort.com/


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