Big Sandy Casino proposal sparks debate

FRESNO, Calif.

The "Big Sandy Casino" would be located off Auberry and Millerton Roads.

On Wednesday, supporters and critics got a chance to talk about the newly released environmental impact statement. More than fifty people got up and spoke during the public meeting.

Those who support the project say it will benefit the local economy, but opponents aren't sure if valley residents can support another casino.

A standing room only crowd packed into Foothill Middle School's auditorium in Prather Wednesday night.

For nearly three hours, representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs listened as valley residents voiced their thoughts on the proposed construction of Big Sandy, a $250 million casino near the town of Friant.

Concerns included the project's affect on the local water supply. "I'd like to know how this is going to impact the residents in the local area with their water."

Others, like Rachelle Bedwall of Clovis question the casino's sustainability. "There's already a casino real close and so I don't think it can support two casinos."

Many in the crowd cheered whenever supporters talked about the more than 1500 jobs the 48 acre project would bring to the area.

Eddie Clement said, "It is gonna have the ability to give people career, as well as the construction industry on the build."

The Big Sandy Rancheria announced plans to build the casino in 2004. A switch in development partners initially delayed the project. But, now another claim may delay it even more.

Table Mountain, a casino located about a mile from the proposed site, argues part of the land Big Sandy wants to use is a sacred burial ground.

Big Sandy, however, says that claim is based more on competition than facts.

Loretta Tuell said, "And we believe it is a historic ancient village with many burials with many pounding rocks, with many issues you can't litigate very easily."

John Peebles said, "I think there's a real concern on Table Mountain, members and their leadership that they will have a substantial reduction in income which will affect their quality of life. It's economics."

At this point, no public meetings are scheduled in the near future. But, you have until March 28th to send in a comment about the environmental impact statement.

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