Gaming machines at the Shooting Star Casino, owned and operated by the White Earth Nation in Mahnomen, Minnesota. Photo: Shooting Star Casino

White Earth Nation sticks by casino project despite delay in environmental review

Tribes are used to long waits for casino projects due to lengthy reviews at the federal level.

But the White Earth Nation is finding out that local governments move just as slowly. After announcing plans for a third gaming facility two years ago this month, the project is still in the review stage.

And the wait will become even longer because officials in Otter Tail County have voted to require an environmental impact statement for the proposed casino at Star Lake amid opposition among some residents. But the tribe supports the additional level of review, The Pelham Focus reported.

"White Earth Tribal Representative, Joe Plummer, presented on behalf of the White Earth Nation that although the tribe believes that the trust lands are not subject to Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) requirements and are pre-empted under federal law, the tribe was willing to proceed with a discretionary EIS," the county's findings of fact stated.

An aerial view of the White Earth Nation gaming site in Star Lake, Minnesota. The trust parcel is outlined in red. The entire project site is outlined in yellow. Source: Otter Tail County Draft Star Lake Casino Environmental Assessment Worksheet

The tribe does not need approval to open the casino itself because gaming will occur on a 14.5-acre trust property at Star Lake. But additional developments -- such as a parking lot, hotel, recreational vehicle park and a convention center -- would be located on 225 acres of fee land so county approval is being sought for those elements.

The Star Lake site is separated from the main reservation, where the tribe operates two Shooting Star casinos.

Read More on the Story:
County Board okays EIS findings declaration, cost (The Pelham Focus September 18, 2017)

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