Round one goes to opponents of the proposed Shooting Star Casino and Resort planned by the White Earth Nation for the shores of Star Lake in Otter Tail County between Pelican Rapids and Dent, Minnesota.

Officials in Otter Tail County accepted a consultant’s recommendation to extend the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) review period and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the White Earth Nation’s Star Lake casino complex proposal on July 11. The board had until August 22 to decide if it would go ahead with an EIS, which is a more stringent level of environmental review versus that of an EAW, which is voluntary and has been submitted by the tribe.

That question was answered Tuesday when Otter Tail County’s five-member board of commissioners concluded unanimously that an EIS on the tribe’s proposed 270-acre casino resort to be located on the shores of Star Lake on its southwest side was necessary, according to The Forum columnist, Mike McFeely.

Late in September 2015, the White Earth Nation announced plans to build the Shooting Star Casino and Resort in Otter Tail County near the intersection of Highway 41 and 380th Street. The casino, which was at the time projected to open this year, is to be built on about 225 acres of “fee land” purchased by the Nation to provide room for transportation access, parking, and other infrastructure included in the development, in addition to 15 acres of trust land. The fee land falls within the jurisdiction of Otter Tail County and the State of Minnesota.

The project has been met with intense opposition from some local residents who worry about the potential harm increased traffic will have on wetlands, and according to the report, the unanimous vote requiring the more stringent EIS is exactly what they’ve been waiting for.

Ty Dayton, president of the Star Lake Concerned Citizens Group (SLCCG), reportedly said the decision by the commission is a “good first step.” Last year in June, Dayton urged the group, which consists of people opposed to the casino, to speak out and declared that the area’s wetlands fell under the protection of the Department of Natural Resources and as such should be exempt from being a part of trust land.

According to The Forum report, the battle may just be beginning as the next step will be to determine the scope of the EIS. Dayton reportedly said the group prefers that the EIS “be very broad and very deep.”

Attorney for the White Earth Nation, Joe Plummer, may have revealed the tribe’s strategy when he reportedly indicated the possibility of legal action being taken by the tribe against Otter County regarding the rules as they apply to Indian trust land. According to the report, the attorney said the Nation was willing to “consent to a voluntary EIS” on a number of concerns listed by Larry Kramka from Twin Cities-based Houston Engineering, who gave a 90-minute presentation prior to the commission’s vote Tuesday.

Plummer’s statement was countered by the attorney for Otter Tail County, Dave Hauser, who reportedly said, in addition to the board, determination of the scope of the EIS will be decided by the tribe and public input.

In addition to a gambling facility, the project reportedly includes a 180-room hotel, full-service bar and grill, restaurant, a 10,000-square-foot conference center, 6,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor pool and spa area,  gift shop,  entertainment lounge, RV park, as many as 850 slot machines and other amenities. It would be the third casino in Minnesota to operate under the umbrella of the Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Entertainment Company.

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