Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), serves as the Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo: ABC / Ida Mae Astute

Tule River Tribe headed to D.C. to lobby for off-reservation casino

The Tule River Tribe is heading to Washington, D.C., to lobby for its off-reservation and is bringing local supporters from California to pitch the plan to a top-ranking Republican lawmaker.

The tribe has an April 12 meeting scheduled with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), whose district includes the proposed casino site. More significantly, as the House Majority Leader, McCarthy has the power to determine which bills get scheduled for votes.

The tribe isn't seeking legislative approval at this time to relocate the Eagle Mountain Casino to a more lucrative location. But McCarthy has brought a handful of land-into-trust bills to the floor, all of which have passed without objections.

McCarthy also might have some sway with the Trump administration. The tribe's environmental impact statement hasn't advanced significantly at the Bureau of Indian Affairs since December 2016.

The Tule River Tribe owns and operates the Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville, California. Photo: Tamara Evans

To assist with the pitch, the tribe asked officials from Porterville to attend the meeting, The Porterville Recorder reported. The city council agreed to send member Monte Reyes and Dave LaPere, the city's fire chief, to the upcoming meeting.

The two officials will be going to D.C. to "advocate for the relocation of the casino and see if they could get any assistance from McCarthy’s office in that regard,” the city's administrator said at a public meeting on Tuesday, when the lobbying trip was approved, The Recorder reported.

Porterville isn't the only local government in support of the relocation. The city council in Lindsay voted unanimously last Thursday to back the tribe, The Recorder reported.

The tribe is pursuing the relocation under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The process requires approval first by the BIA and then by the state governor.

If the state governor concurs with the BIA's determination, the 40-acre site for the casino must still be placed in trust. A separate decision is required at the federal level.

But the tribe must still return to the table as part of its Class III gaming compact. An amendment to the existing agreement calls for further negotiations to address the off-reservation casino.

Despite the many hurdles, the tribe remains optimistic. A draft environmental impact statement is expected in July, though the BIA is under no obligation to make a decision under any deadline.

The new site is near the Porterville Airport Industrial Park. Eagle Mountain is currently about 20 miles away.

Read More on the Story:
Tribal council head to D.C. (The Porterville Recorder March 22, 2018)
Council supports relocation of EMC (The Porterville Recorder March 22, 2018)

Federal Register Notice:
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Tule River Tribe's Proposed Fee-to-Trust and Eagle Mountain Casino Relocation Project, Tulare County, California (December 30, 2016)

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