Tribe Submits Final Environmental Report to Secure 151-Acre Casino Development

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The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is moving another step closer to completing what has been a three-year, $500 million effort to build a destination resort casino in Taunton, Massachusetts.

On Tuesday, the tribe announced that the laborious task of compiling and publishing their Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), which they called a “key milestone for the tribe’s resort destination casino project,” was complete. “We are pleased to submit this final report of our proposed destination resort casino in Taunton,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell told the Taunton Daily Gazette. “This report is the final step in the state’s environmental review process and helps us stay on track to bring thousands of jobs to southeastern Massachusetts.”

The document, more than 700 pages long, analyzes the impact the casino development would have on wastewater, wetlands, transportation, air quality, water supplies, rare species and other environmental considerations.

Cromwell said, according to The Cape News, that filing the FEIR is the final step before the US Department of the Interior issues a record of decision on the tribe’s application to have the 151-acre site acquired and placed in federal trust for the tribe. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued an environmental impact statement in September, but has not announced a decision on the land-into-trust application. And key case law from the U.S. Supreme Court inCarcieri v. Salazar, could also influence the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. Mashpee Wampanoag did not receive federal recognition until 2007.

Will this cause a legal issue?

It all depends on whether Carcieri is broadly or narrowly defined. The BIA can look at treaties, laws and other actions to affirm the tribe’s claim that it had ties to the federal government before to 1934.

But Cromwell said he was confident that the application would be approved. “I’m very comfortable and confident about where we are, and that we have done all the right things," he told The Cape News.