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Star Lake casino use permit decision still on hold

The Star Lake casino use permit decision is still on hold and it looks like it will be for a while, as environmental reviews are still being conducted. (Focus file photo)

Environmental reviews are still taking place related to a proposed casino submitted by the White Earth Nation on the southwest side of Star Lake in central Otter Tail County.

This past fall the county board of commissioners voted to table a Conditional Use Permit request regarding a proposed parking lot and driveway for the casino and hotel. The board's decision is tied to completion of the environmental review process.

The county board has control over non-tribal land that includes the area for the proposed parking lot and driveway.

Trust land closer to Star Lake, where the casino would be built, is sovereign tribal land. Federal environmental regulations are in place on this land because the tribes are domestic, dependent sovereign nations subject to an Act of Congress.

Area lake property owners are among those opposed to the overall casino project. Public comment periods are part of the environmental review process.

If the five-person county board believes that the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) has answered all environmental questions, they will most likely say an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not needed. The county board has that authority.

Several Star Lake property owners, however, have called for an EIS process to proceed in addition to the EAW.

For its part, the county board is weighing environmental concerns against potential economic development impacts.

One area of study is topographical alterations at the proposed casino complex. With this in mind, the county planning commission requested that White Earth Nation consider a new design for its proposed parking lot adjacent to the planned casino.

Wetlands removal at the Star Lake site was a concern of many area residents who voiced their opinions at the planning commission meeting.

Star Lake Casino, if hurdles are overcome, would include a casino, hotel, RV park, dining areas, entertainment and retail space.

The location is near the intersection of County Highway 41 and 380th Street in central Otter Tail County, southwest of Dent and east of Maplewood State Park.

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