The tribes hope to double hotel space at the popular Spirit Mountain Casino if they can find enough water to supply the new rooms and the tourists they would bring to this rural area near the Oregon coast. "Water is short out here," said Bob Watson, the casino's interim chief executive. "Then in comes this casino that consumes 30 million gallons a year. That's a lot to do to a small community." Since the casino opened five years ago, expansion put pressure on local resources. To help ease that pressure, the tribe paid for highway improvements and increased law enforcement. The tribe is paying for a water study in nearby Willamina and may contribute $50,000 to Sheridan to study building a reservoir above Willamina Creek. There are preliminary plans to expand Spirit Mountain Casino by adding 130 hotel rooms, 8,000 square feet of gaming space, a convention center and a swimming pool. The tribes also want to expand reservation housing, and add an education and business center to the tribal complex. "We're at a time where we need to build to accommodate the growth of our tribe," Mercier said. "Our water doesn't keep up with it."
Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work?
All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.