Tribes, Casinos, & Controversy

January 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Friction between two tribes and Fresno County over expansion plans at a casino.The casino seemed to set its expansion plans in motion this week and raised alarms with the county and a competing casino.

The Mono tribe is working on plans for a massive casino just one mile from Table Mountain. Despite several setbacks a local tribe which operates a small casino still has big plans some exploratory work started this week is causing more friction between local tribes.

Controversy surrounds this large parcel of land not far from Table Mountain Casino.

On Tuesday crews bulldozed a path which leads to the 40 acres owned by the Big Sandy Tribe which runs Mono Wind Casino.

Fresno County officials halted the excavation work but later determined a permit wasn't needed to do exploratory research on the site.

Dan Gibbs, Supervising Engineer: "They can use it to determine if the ground is suitable for a large structure. They can use it to determine if there is groundwater present."

"They're primarily interested in the quality of the soil."

Table Mountain owns 40 acres next to the Big Sandy Land. Officials say historical land has been disturbed.

Robert Pennell, Cultural Resources Director: "It covers about 30 acres a third on Table Mountain Rancheria property about a third on Big Sandy Property. Our concerns were Native American burial sites on both sides of the fence."

The Big Sandy Tribe claims the road was needed to get a boring rig into the area but Fresno State professors conducting an archaeological dig were dismayed to find the bulldozed path.

Roger La Jennesse, Anthropology Professor: "I think it would be the responsibility of big sandy to bring their archaelogists in and prepare these routes before they in fact cut them."

John Pryor, Anthropology Professor: "The thing about archaeology is once a site has been impacted you can't put that back."

Caesars backed out of an agreement to develop a project with the Big Sandy Tribe in 2004.

Last March the tribe partnered with American Vantage for a possible project but Mono Wind did not wish to comment on this story.

Fresno County Supervisor Bob Waterston says the Big Sandy Tribe doesn't have approval from the federal government to build a new casino so at this point, he says this is nothing more than a big fight over a road.


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