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Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

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AUBURN, Wash. (AP) ? The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe began building its 20,000-seat concert amphitheater in 1997. Now, five years and several traffic and fish studies later, the tribe has been cleared to finish it.

Officials at the Bureau of Indian Affairs have completed a final environmental impact statement that confirms the findings of earlier drafts ? that the south King County project has no major traffic or environmental problems that cannot be solved.

The tribe now must obtain two permits to finish the partly completed project two miles east of Auburn. A permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is required for filling in a third of an acre of wetlands, and the state Transportation Department must approve access from the 98-acre site to busy Washington 164.

Construction could resume as early as May. Completion is expected to take about seven months, plus an additional two to three months to set up equipment and other amenities. Backers want to open the amphitheater for next year's concert season. It is expected to attract 30 to 40 musical events a year and showcase community and cultural events.

Opponents say the final evironmental study is inadequate and that they're determined to fight the permits.

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'They have just rewritten the same stuff they had before with some extra fluff,' said Janet Devlin, co-chairwoman of the Enumclaw-area Citizens for Safety and Environment.

'Every issue related to the amphitheater has been thoroughly examined and evaluated,' said tribal attorney Rob Otsea. 'The tribe bent over backward to try to deal with the issues (the opponents) raised. Some people are never going to be satisfied.'

The report details plans for handling traffic during events at the $30-million-plus White River Amphitheater and for easing environmental impact. The site would have parking for 6,170 vehicles, with an additional 780 spaces and free shuttle service from the SuperMall of the Great Northwest to reduce local traffic. The project would include four driveways into the site, new turn lanes on Washington 164, special temporary signs and officers ? provided by the amphitheater ? directing traffic at entrances during and after events.

A 1.8 percent tax on gross ticket sales would provide money for a 'community mitigation fund' to offset local impact.

The final environmental report includes biological opinions released in January by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The agencies assessed the amphitheater's effect on chinook salmon and bull trout in the White River and its tributaries. The fish are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The agencies said the amphitheater will degrade the local environment, but not enough to threaten the fish with extinction.