As part of an ongoing lawsuit, a federal judge has been asked by Clark County and other appellants to halt construction of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s casino-resort in Northwest Clark County in Washington until their appeal is heard in federal court.
Construction began on the $510 million project in January, and now along Interstate 5, the casino’s walls are going up on the Cowlitz Reservation outside La Center. The facility is scheduled to open in 2017.
On Thursday, a motion was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia requesting that construction be stopped until the court has ruled on the group’s appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Barbara J. Rothstein’s dismissal of the lawsuit in December 2014. If the injunction isn’t granted by the court, the appellants ask that the court hasten its ruling. The appeal is scheduled for March 18 to be argued orally in federal court in Washington D.C, as reported by The Columbian.
In addition to the city of Vancouver, the appellants include Clark County, the owners and operators of La Center’s cardrooms, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, and Citizens Against Reservation Shopping. The latter is a group that includes Scott Campbell, a member of The Columbian’s (a Vancouver daily newspaper) editorial board. While construction on the facility began in January, the appellants did not request the injunction until now. Because it’s not immediately impacted by the construction, the city of Vancouver is not part of the motion on Thursday, according to court documents.
Senior deputy prosecuting attorney of Clark County, Christine Cook, said on Thursday the reason the motion was filed by the appellants is because the Cowlitz Tribe has, “moved extremely aggressively and rapidly to construct the facility … and it appears that what they’re trying to do is to get everything as much built as possible as they can before the court rules.”
The federal lawsuit challenges the federal government’s decision to place into trust for the Cowlitz Tribe approximately 152 acres west of La Center in Clark County, and permit gambling on that land. The appellants maintain the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 is only applicable to tribes that were under federal jurisdiction at that time. While the Cowlitz tribe didn’t receive federal recognition until 2000, Judge Rothstein called the statue’s wording ambiguous and sided with the tribe. The judge’s ruling prompted several groups opposed to the casino to file the federal suit.
On Thursday, Cook also said the Cowlitz’s plan for a sewage disposal system is particularly worrisome to the county. On February 22nd, the county was informed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the tribe’s injection well plan had been approved, according to court documents.
Bill Iyall, the Chairman of the Cowlitz Tribe, stated in an email, that approval of the request for an injunction would have far-reaching implications, including the laying off of almost 80 percent of the 150 employees currently doing work on the reservation, as well as delaying the facility’s opening, which will employ more than 1,200 people in Clark County.