The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ massive $160 million expansion of its Chumash Casino and Resort located in California’s Santa Ynez Valley is facing a court challenge from a group of landowners who say that too much extra water will be used.
Last month the tribe announced plans for its newly expanded casino, which includes the addition of 60,000 square feet to the gaming floor and a 12-story, 215-room hotel tower, to open from May 20. However, in an effort to prevent the opening, earlier this month a lawsuit was filed against the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, the state of California, and Santa Barbara County by Save the Valley, the group of landowners suing the tribe, according to Courthouse News Service.
Although the tribe has operated its Santa Barbara County casino-resort since 2004, Save the Valley says that because the 75 acres east of the creek, the water supply, have never formally been made part of the reservation, the acreage must be in compliance with local land use rules.
The group claims that a judgement from 1906 that it uncovered and dusted off, which followed an 1897 suit, restricts the use of water to domestic purposes. The 19th-century suit against the Indians who were living on the Catholic Church’s land was originally filed by the bishop of Monterey who wanted to establish living terms for them there, and one of the terms was that the use of water be restricted to domestic purposes. According to the complaint, the 75¾ acres were transferred by the Catholic Church to the federal government in 1935, attached with the deed restriction. The group says the tribes’ residing on the east side of the creek are limited by the judgement to using the water for domestic and irrigation purposes.
The group is also arguing that because Governor Jerry Brown declared a water shortage emergency for the state in January 2014, and since then water has been like liquid gold in California, the county, the Water Conservation District, and the state are bound by law to stop the project.
This isn’t the first attempt by Save the Valley to block the tribe. Last year on April 3, on the group’s behalf, a Santa Barbara attorney requested a permanent injunction for construction at the tribe’s casino resort located on its federally recognized reservation in Santa Ynez. That case was dismissed, however, by a U.S. District Court judge who said it did not possess jurisdiction due to tribal sovereign immunity.
The tribe says that 250 new jobs will result from the expansion and last month a careers fair was held to fill the various staffing positions that will need to be filled. According to the Chumash Casino and Resort, the casino will have its official grand opening on May, 23.