In the latest round of economic development grants announced by the Kempthorne administration, the tribe will receive $500,000 to expand its strawboard plant in Plummer, adding 56 jobs. This round totals $2.7 million in grants from the governor's economic initiative lawmakers approved last winter.
Snowy weather and poor driving conditions hurt business at the tribal casino in Worley, the tribe said. As a result, tribal members received smaller per capita payments this summer, said Dave Matheson, the tribal gaming executive. The payments dropped from $1,068 to $900, the tribe said. It was the first time since the casino opened in 1993 that the semi-annual payments have declined from the previous year, Matheson said. The lower revenues in November and December appeared to be a "blip,'' Matheson said. Revenues were back up again in January, he said. The per capita payments are paid twice a year to the 1,770 enrolled members of the tribe. When tribal gaming was established, the tribe voted to return 25 percent of the profits to its members. The remaining money funds education, social programs and land acquisitions. In the past eight years, the casino has grown to include 1,200 gambling machines, a hotel and conference center, concerts and boxing matches. Plans call for developing the casino into a destination-style resort. Per capita payments are made in June and December.
The Environmental Protection Agency is said to be warming to a widely supported, locally developed plan to protect and enhance water quality in Lake Coeur d'Alene. The 5-year-old Coeur d'Alene Lake Management Plan, developed by the tribe, the counties and a "lot of different people," would allow lake management while avoiding the stigma of a Superfund designation. For more than three years, the EPA has been studying the basin for heavy metals contamination left over from past mining practices in the Silver Valley. "What the EPA is telling us now is that if we can come up with a combined effort to implement (the plan) to guarantee that the lake will be taken care of, they will in effect not consider the lake for listing," said Kootenai County Commission Chairman Dick Panabaker, also chairman of the governor's basin commission. Members of the tribe, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and Kootenai, Shoshone and Benewah counties will review the plan and form a new strategy to implement it. "We hope to have everything in place by this fall." Officials say it may not be necessary for the federal agency to be the driving force behind the lake management plan.