|The proposed Indian casino on a 2,000-acre parcel near wetlands by the Napa County border in Southern Sonoma County, off Highway 37 could strain the environment and have negative long-term effects. According to a whitepaper from the Bay Institute, the Sonoma Land Trust and the Sonoma Ecology Center, the Casino project would have dramatic consequences on the ecological system and warn that any development would have significant effects on a number of endangered species in the surrounding area.|
The site is considerably immune on account of its status as an Indian trust land exempting it from federal, state and local environmental scrutiny, which might let it off the hook for non-compliance with the Endangered Species Act or any other mandates.
The Casino under consideration would be located in the heart of an area where nearly 21,000 acres have been purchased as a part of a $600 million wetland restoration project since 1972.
However, a legislative bill recently introduced by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-San Francisco) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) would require the tribe to consult with public agencies and non-governmental organizations before moving forward with the project, ensuring that the some form of environmental analysis occurs. It is unclear whether the bill will pass.
While no clear construction plans or blueprints have been laid out by the federated Indians of Graton Rancheria who intend to construct the casino, the project is already facing opposition from Napa County Board of Supervisors and residents.
So is ecology or economy more important? It’s economy according to Charlie Toledo, director of the Suscol Tribal Council, who supports the project because it will generate a source of income for Native Americans, most of whom live below the poverty line and believes that the Casino would not adversely affect the ecology on most of the 2000-acre parcel.
The Whitepaper states that, if the 2,000-slot machine casino is built, it will generate 6,000 to 12,000 additional vehicle trips per day in the area. The resulting traffic would reach 'Sonoma and Napa Valleys, Highway 101 corridor from San Rafael northward and the Highway 37 corridor from I-80. Not to mention air pollution and the land depravation by building a golf course.
For now, the debate between ecology and economy continues.