Norton delays casino decision

Interior Secretary says she won’t rule on casino until property becomes trust

May 25, 2005

Opponents of a casino proposed for Cascade Locks are claiming victory with the U.S. Interior Department’s withholding of a decision on that plan.

However, involved local, state and federal officials claim that Secretary Gale Norton’s move is simply a “procedural shift.”

That her refusal to render a verdict at this time on the agreement between Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs does not set back the project timeline.

On Friday, Norton informed Kulongoski that she will not rule on his recommendation for the state’s first off-reservation casino until the 25-acre parcel in question has been taken into trust for gambling.

“While this decision comes as a bit of a last minute surprise, it is important to remember that it only changes the order of the process,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden in a written statement. “It does not reject the terms of the compact, but requires the tribes to acquire the land before the department will consider the merits of the compact.”

“If it means waiting a little longer to be sure that everything has been done right in this unique situation, then we’ll just have to be patient,” said Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, who also advocates for placement of the casino in the largely willing community.

Norton was required by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to rule this weekend on the compact recommended by Kulongoski in April. However, she refused to either approve or deny that agreement for a 500,000 square foot casino in the industrial park because the timing was not right. Since IGRA requires gambling to take place only on trust lands, Norton believed she should not be asked to weigh in on the agreement until the status of the land had been converted. However, opponents plan to fight any change in the property designation to “sovereign nation” status.

Greg Leo, tribal spokesperson, said the application for trust has already been initiated and a mandated environmental impact study will soon be underway. He anticipates that Norton will be called upon to consider the trust request within the next year, as previously planned.

“She (Norton) didn’t say ‘no’ in this letter, she just said let’s get the land into trust first and we intend to do that,” said Leo.

But opponents are mounting a multi-pronged campaign to defeat plans for the $300 million facility at the eastern edge of the city. They believe the casino will bring social ills as well as pollution from increased traffic.

The Friends of the Columbia Gorge have joined with several environmental groups, Grande Ronde Tribe, Oregon Restaurant Association and the Oregon Family Council to form the Coalition for Oregon’s Future. The coalition is opposed to Kulongoski’s approval for an off-reservation casino in the Gorge or anywhere else in Oregon.

Cascade Locks No Casino has banded together with citizen activists against the Three Rivers Casino in Florence to fight on the legal front. Their joint attorney, Kelly Clark, contends the governor violates the Oregon State Constitution by negotiating gambling compacts at all. He further argues that Kulongoski cannot act alone in negotiating the terms of a tribal gambling compact — especially if it is for a banned activity. No Casino has posted a Web site, www.cl-no-casino.org, and is urging opponents to join their opposition group.

Meanwhile, Robert Willoughby, Cascade Locks city manager, hopes what doesn’t get lost in political battles is the “desperate” economic need behind the proposal. Both the Warm Springs and Cascade Locks communities have high unemployment and poverty rates — a key factor in Kulongoski’s decision. Oregon’s lead official also believed a special exception to the IGRA requirement that gambling be allowed only on reservation land was warranted to protect Gorge resources. In exchange for being allowed to build in the Cascade Locks urban area, the Warm Springs have agreed not to develop their eligible forested 40-are parcel just east of Hood River. Plus, the tribe will sign an additional 175 acres of Scenic Area timbered lands over to the state for preservation. Norton’s approval of the Cascade Locks site could also settle a legal dispute between the tribe and state over ownership of the historic highway leading to the Hood River lands. Under IGRA, Norton is allowed to grant an off-reservation casino to resolve that conflict, as well as for the tribes’ best interest — if the proposal is deemed not to be detrimental to the host community.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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