Napa County supervisors will weigh if taking a stand opposing a possible Indian casino in neighboring Solano County could hurt their own goal of keeping a casino away from Napa farmland.
Officials in Napa and Solano counties say the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians is targeting a site in Vallejo near Interstate 80 and Highway 37. Solano County, Vallejo and American Canyon have sent letters to the federal government expressing concerns.
Napa County staff said a casino in Vallejo would ease pressure for a possible Napa casino, since Indian casinos are usually granted a monopoly on the surrounding area.
On the other hand, they said, Napa County has opposed having Indian tribes establish federally recognized “restored lands” in areas where they lack historic ties. Solano County, Vallejo and American Canyon say this is the case with the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians’ Vallejo proposal.
“I want to be fully supportive of our colleagues in Solano and Vallejo and American Canyon,” Supervisor Diane Dillon said. “But I don’t want to invite the project to move to Napa.”
Napa County’s Legislative Subcommittee of Supervisors Mark Luce and Dilllon on Monday did what they could to have Napa join the debate. They recommended the full Board of Supervisors consider whether it should oppose the casino at a meeting yet to be announced.
But Napa County can only voice its opinion. The U.S. Department of the Interior will take the first step toward deciding if a Vallejo casino is possible, with local governments having no veto power.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors and wine industry have long feared that a federally recognized tribe might try to have local agricultural land taken into trust by the federal government. Then the tribe as a sovereign government could try to establish a casino without county approval.
The Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians has its headquarters at Lakeport in Lake County. Officials with the Scotts Valley Band could not be reached for a comment on Friday or Monday.
Several parties have already sent letters to the Department of the Interior commenting on the possible Vallejo casino.
The Solano County Board of Supervisors wrote on Aug. 23 that it had just learned of the proposal. But, the letter said, the Scotts Valley Band on January 29 asked the federal government to determine if the Vallejo property is eligible for gaming operations.
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No one from the tribe or the Department of the Interior contacted the county during the intervening seven months, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Erin Hannigan wrote.
“Initially, the county is deeply concerned about the lack of transparency exhibited by both the Scotts Valley Band and the Department in this determination process,” Hannigan wrote.
Solano County is not necessarily anti-casino or anti-gaming, she said.
“However, this ‘reservation shopping’ by the Scotts Valley Band takes away economic opportunity from tribes that actually have historic ties to lands encompassed by Solano County,” Hannigan wrote.
The Scotts Valley Band took another, separate action after asking the Department of the Interior on Jan. 29 for a gaming determination. It applied on Aug. 11 to have the Vallejo property taking into trust by the federal government, another step needed to establish a casino, according to Solano County.
Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. John Garamendi and Rep. Jared Huffman said in an Aug. 29 letter that a gaming determination and trust application are usually sought at the same time. That triggers notification requirements.
The Scotts Valley Band case is not following the common procedure that local governments have come to expect. It is essential that stakeholders and interested parties have the chance to express their views from the outset, the three congressmen wrote.
Thompson, Huffman and Garamendi questioned if the Scotts Valley Band has historic connections to the Vallejo land.
“We also request that the Office of Indian Gaming not issue a decision until a response to our inquiry is provided,” they wrote.
American Canyon is in Napa County, but only a few miles from the proposed casino site. In a letter, the city expressed concerns that the casino could affect the portion of the city’s water supply that comes from Vallejo, among other concerns.
Now, the Napa County Board of Supervisors will decide whether to add its own voice to the proceedings involving a possible Solano County casino a little over a mile from the Napa County line.