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Wilton Rancheria casino proposal goes before Galt officials tonight

Published: Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2013 - 3:52 am

An area Indian tribe will take its initial public step toward opening the first tribal casino in Sacramento County by introducing the proposal at a Galt City Council meeting tonight.

While in its infancy, the proposal from the Wilton Rancheria is to take 160 acres of farmland into federal trust and eventually build a casino on the site in unincorporated Sacramento County northeast of the city of Galt.

The proposed site is south of Arno Road between Highway 99 and the Union Pacific Railroad.

The tribe has yet to file an application to start the multi-year process of taking the land into federal trust, said Carmen Facio, realty officer for the Sacramento office of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Tribes seeking to take land into federal trust – a required step before a casino can be opened – must meet federal environmental rules, Facio noted. In addition, traffic and infrastructure requirements must be studied.

"There are a lot of things that go into it," Facio said.

Getting state approval would present another significant obstacle.

Late last year, the tribe met privately with Sacramento County and Elk Grove city officials. The 7 p.m. presentation at today's Galt council meeting will be the first time the plan will be discussed before a public body. The council meets at 380 Civic Drive in Galt.

"We don't really have many details at this point," said Jason Behrmann, Galt's city manager. "They seem very open and willing to have a dialogue. This will be the first step in what will likely be many opportunities for public comment."

A tribal official offered to detail the plan today.

Behrmann said it's too early to say whether benefits, in the form of job creation or infrastructure improvements, will outweigh negative impacts.

In 2009, shortly after the Wilton Miwok were restored by the federal government as a tribe, their plan to build a casino near Wilton rankled Elk Grove and Sacramento County officials.

A 2011 memorandum of understanding between the county, city of Elk Grove and the Rancheria, settling a lawsuit, gives the city and county more leverage in mitigating impacts, said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli. "If you are going to locate more intense types of uses … people are all better served when they are located where there is access (to transportation and services)," Nottoli said.

Wilton Rancheria Indian Tribe is formed from Wilton Rancheria Miwok and the Me-Wuk Indian Community of the Wilton Rancheria. It has more than 500 members. Call The Bee's Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @newsfletch.

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