April 18, 2014 7:34 PM
MIKE LAMB, STAFF WRITER
BARSTOW • A proposed $160 million casino and resort off Lenwood Road near Interstate 15 has been cleared of any major negative impact on the environment by the U.S. Department of Interior.
The final environmental impact statement released Friday, which must proceed through a 30-day comment period, represents a major hurdle cleared in the 12-year effort to build the complex with 57,000 square feet of gaming space.
The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians has been seeking to build the casino on about 23 acres of land near the Tanger Outlet mall for years.
Barstow Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre said she was thrilled.
“This is a a significant step in the process, and we are hopeful the BIA (Bureau of Indians Affairs) will work expeditiously to issue a final decision on the tribe’s application for this land so this important project can be made a reality,” Hackbarth-McIntyre said in a statement released by the Los Coyotes Band. “Our city has a very close working relationship with the tribe, one that has been memorialized in a long-standing Memorandum of Agreement. I cannot underscore strongly enough how important this economic development project is to the revitalization of Barstow and the surrounding region.”
The project to build a casino off of Indian reservation land is part of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. It specifically allows a federally recognized tribe to apply to have land taken into trusts so that it can be used for Indian gaming if the Department of Interior determines that it would be beneficial to the tribe and not detrimental to the surrounding community. The governor also would have to sign off on the project.
The Los Coyotes reservation, according to tribe, is located in a remote area in the hills near Warner’s Hot Springs, about 70 miles from San Diego. It is sandwiched between the Cleveland National Forest and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park of San Diego County with excessively steep, rugged terrain, resulting in extremely limited infrastructure and very difficult living conditions.
Shane Chapparosa, chairman of the Los Coyotes Band, also welcomed Friday’s news, but remained guarded.
“It’s an exciting milestone to get to,” Chapperosa said. “We still have a lot of work to do. It took us 12 years to get to this point. Now we have to take the next step. … We can’t let our guard down. We have to work twice as hard now.”
The impact statement estimated that the Los Coyotes casino project would bring in $160 million in investments to Barstow, as well as 1,000 construction jobs. Once operating, the casino would be expected to produce $126 million in annual revenue and support 1,085 jobs in the community.
The complex would be located on Lenwood Road across the street from the Hampton Inn.
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