Reader Say More Please wanted to know more about development on Indian land.

Reservations are sovereign nations and not subject to county land-use regulations. But, they’re not islands either. San Diego County struggles daily to cope with the unintended consequences of casinos. Traffic, crime, groundwater issues, changes to community character.  I have 10 reservations in the district I represent. Five of them operate casinos.

You certainly have your ear to ground with regard to those pending compacts. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s 2004 compacts were a HUGE improvement over compacts negotiated by Gov. Davis in 1999. Under the Davis compacts, the county had zero ability to mitigate for development on tribal lands, a mistake that frustrated the County and people living near reservations. We couldn’t ask that roads be improved. We couldn’t ask for environmental studies.

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say the ’04 compacts call for “CEQA-like” standards. They do, however, call for a “judicially enforceable agreement” with local government to mitigate the impacts of casinos.

That change was certainly helpful in at least one instance, with the Viejas expansion.

Among the newer compacts that are stalled up in Sacramento is Sycuan’s compact. I have concerns with it.

The compact assumes that oversight of gaming activities will be handled by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). However, a federal court has since ruled that states, not the NIGC, are responsible for regulatory oversight of tribal gaming. I think the compact needs to be amended to address this court decision and make clear the State’s regulatory responsibilities.

I have other concerns too. Probably my biggest concern is that the county had no part in its development. Because it falls largely on local government resources to respond to public health and safety needs near reservations, I think the county should have taken part in discussions about the amended compact,

Had we taken part, perhaps many important concerns now being raised by residents near Sycuan could have been addressed at the negotiating table. 

— DIANNE JACOB

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