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Casino submits EAW

An important step in the Star Lake resort and casino development process was made last week, and another opportunity for public comment on the project is coming up next week.

An important step in the Star Lake resort and casino development process was made last week, and another opportunity for public comment on the project is coming up next week.

The two separate but related matters - a recently submitted Environmental Assessment Worksheet, or EAW, and the public hearing - were both discussed at an Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

EAW submitted

County officials reported that they had received an Environmental Assessment Worksheet on the casino project. The voluntary EAW, which was prepared by the casino developer, White Earth Enterprises, through a third party, Braun-Intertec, was submitted last Thursday, Sept. 8.

The EAW is intended to provide information needed for county officials to determine whether the casino project will have significant environmental impacts.

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Commissioners have 30 days to review the EAW and then decide whether a more rigorous environmental assessment, called an Environmental Impact Statement, is needed. They could also go back to the developer to request more information for the EAW, if they believe something is missing or incomplete.

At the meeting Tuesday, commissioners said it was critical to have the EAW reviewed by "independent eyes," and approved the hire of an independent firm, Houston Engineering, to conduct a third-party review of the document.

Once the document is deemed complete, the public will have the opportunity to make comments.

Concerned citizens who have spoken at public meetings in the past have raised fears of degraded water quality, adverse effects on birds and other wildlife, harm to wetlands and other negative environmental impacts from the casino.

The casino is planned for construction southwest of Dent, near the intersection of Highway 41 and 380th Street. About 15 acres borders the south arm of Star Lake. That, combined with another 255 acres of adjoining land, provides for about 5,500 feet of lake frontage.

Public hearing next week

A public hearing on a Conditional Use Permit Application related to the casino project is slated for next Wednesday, Sept. 21.

The hearing will be held at the Government Services Center in Fergus Falls at 6:30 p.m. It will be led by the county planning commission.

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The hearing will give the public a chance to air their concerns and comments on whether or not a parking lot should be constructed on land adjacent to the proposed casino and resort site.

A county official explained to the board on Tuesday that the hearing will not address the issue of whether or not the casino should be built. The casino and all the resort's related structures are planned for construction on tribal land, which the county does not have jurisdiction over, the official said.

A portion of the proposed parking lot, however, is on county land, and it will be up to the county board to decide whether or not to approve the permit application for the lot.

A final decision on whether or not to approve, deny or table the permit application will be made by county board members at a later date, after the completion of the EAW process (and EIS process, as well, if an EIS is deemed necessary).

The EAW will ensure "that all the information is available for making the decision on the permitting process for the Conditional Use Permit," said County Attorney David Hauser.

An overflow crowd is expected at Wednesday's hearing.

A writer, editor and mom of four (two kids, two dogs), Marie's been in the newspaper business for over 20 years. She started at the Detroit Lakes Tribune in 2017 after working just down the road at the Perham Focus for several years. Before that, she was at the Herald-Review in Grand Rapids, Minn.
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