The city of White Salmon has been asked to oppose a tribal trust land application related to a proposed casino in Hood River.
The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs have applied to place approximately 150 acres of recently-purchased Hood River land into tribal trust status. The property, adjacent to an existing 40-acre parcel of tribal trust land, was purchased to provide room for services associated with a casino.
The casino itself is proposed to be built on the 40-acre site.
Trust lands have sovereign status, meaning the tribes are not under the jurisdiction of city, county, or National Scenic Area planning rules.
On Sept. 5, attorney Kenneth Woodrich, a representative of the Hood River-based "No Casino" organization, came to the White Salmon City Council meeting to ask the city to take a stand against the land transfer, but not necessarily against the casino itself.
"The concern we have is limited to the proposal to move 150 or so acres from fee status to trust status," Woodrich explained, adding that objecting to the trust land application does not hinder the tribe's ability to build a casino on its existing trust land.
"The tribe's idea is to use the property for parking and buildings for shopping, gas stations, and other incidental uses for a casino," Woodrich explained.
The property in question is on the bluffs directly south from downtown White Salmon.
"If in fact the tribe is successful in converting that land to trust property, the usual regulations that apply would then simply not apply," Woodrich said. "The concern is, if trust status is allowed, there are no safeguards. You have a beautiful view at night of Hood River city lights on this side. Those lights are focused, because it's black on the bluff. Put developments there, and there are going to be lights and glare. Light pollution is one of the issues."
Mayor Roger Holen noted, however, that a casino could provide economic benefits to the area.
"Some people might look over there and see dollar signs instead of light pollution," Holen said.
Woodrich pointed out there is strong opposition to a casino in the Hood River area, but he stressed that the complex would have an equal or greater visual impact on the Washington side of the river.
"The city, as policy maker, has to consider the impacts on this city and its constituents. It will impact the quality of life of your constitutes. In our view, this development would have a real negative impact," Woodrich said.
Holen said he agreed it would not be good to allow the tribe to have another 150 acres of land that could not be regulated by Hood River County officials or others outside the tribe.
"Turning it to trust land would have that affect, and neither the state or the county would have any jurisdiction," Holen explained.
The White Salmon City Council plans to make its decision at the next council meeting, on Sept. 19.