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Casino EAW public comments review to continue on Aug. 22

David Hauser. Tom Hintgen/Otter Tail County correspondent.

The county board of commissioners, on July 11, accepted a recommendation from a consultant to continue its environmental review of the proposed Star Lake casino complex on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

The board addressed issues related to the recently completed Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) as it pertains to the proposed casino on the southwest side of Star Lake.

Now, the board is considering the need for further environmental review through a Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). A decision on whether to proceed with a EIS will likely be decided by the county board on Aug. 22.

"The county board needs more time to assess the EAW and make an informed decision about proceeding with a EIS," said County Attorney David Hauser. "The board also needs to base its decision on comments and questions from citizens and concerned parties following completion of the EAW."

Twin Cities-based Houston Engineering, with an office in Fargo, said an extension is needed in order to fully address all questions related to the Environmental Assessment Worksheet.

"We need to make sure that you, as county board members, digest all of the substantive (casino environmental) information," said Houston Engineering representative Larry Krampa.

In attendance at the Aug. 11 county board meeting were several residents of the Star Lake area, most of who are opposed to construction of the new casino on the southwest side of Star Lake.

The White Earth Nation, which has proposed the new casino, still has some information that is needed for the environmental review, said Krampa.

"We need to ensure that scoping is in place related to a possible Environmental Impact Statement," said Krampa.

County Board Chairman Doug Huebsch of Perham addressed the issue of "general compatibility" related to the proposed casino. Commissioner John Lindquist of Dalton addressed financial concerns.

Other issues, as part of environmental review, include safety, social issues related to the proposed casino location, roadway impacts, visual impact, holding ponds and effects on wild rice in that area of Star Lake.

The Aug. 22 hearing will begin at 1 p.m. in the County Board Room at the County Government Services Center in Fergus Falls, adjacent to the Regional Treatment Center campus on the northwest side of town.

The proposed casino would be constructed on tribal land near the intersection of Highway 41 and 380th Street, on the southwest side of Star Lake. The proposed parking lot location is on fee land which is subject to State of Minnesota and Otter Tail County jurisdiction.

The casino itself would be built on tribal land, part of a sovereign nation.

Later, members of the Otter Tail County Planning Commission will address a conditional use permit application for the proposed casino parking lot. They will forward their recommendation to the five members of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners.

More information is available on the Otter Tail County website.