By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs sent a full contingent of officials to honor U.S. Rep. Greg Walden at a special luncheon on Friday in Cascade Locks.
That visit came three days before the tribal council voted to authorize the signing of a newly negotiated gambling compact with the state of Oregon.
Len Bernstein, tribal enterprise spokesperson, said the council was also given a full briefing on April 4 about the future of Kah-Nee-Tah once a casino opened in the Gorge.
Another point of discussion, said Bernstein, was the preservation of 175 acres that is owned by the tribe just east of Hood River.
Walden, R-Ore., warmly greeted tribal leaders at the pavilion in Port Marine Park and vowed to advocate for placement of a casino in the rural community.
He and local officials expect Gov. Ted Kulongoski to make an announcement today about the tribal proposal to site a casino in Cascade Locks.
“I support building the facility here. I think it will be good for the economy. You get the compact worked out with the governor and then we’ll do our part to move it along,” he said.
Sen. Rick Metsger, who has long advocated for placing the casino in Cascade Locks, is optimistic about the ramifications of the pending announcement.
“It appears the long journey that has been traveled to get us to where we are is almost over. The governor has worked diligently to address all of the issues that both proponents and opponents have brought forth and has produced a result that I believe will have positive economic impacts on the community of Cascade Locks,” he said.
Greg Leo, tribal public affairs officer, said the tribal agreement with the state addresses a wide range of issues.
“The people of Hood River County should feel very good about this compact, they’ve been listened to and their concerns have been addressed,” said Leo. “This agreement is good news for local citizens in many ways.
The Hood River lands are protected from development and the county will benefit from the growth brought by the casino and by a community benefit fund.”
Sen. Rick Metsger, who has long advocated for placing the casino in Cascade Locks, is also awaiting the governor’s
At the April 1 luncheon, Walden expressed trust that the Warm Springs would “do what they’ve always done and act with great class” in the design of the gambling center.
The tribe has asked Kulongoski to approve siting of a 500,000 square foot gaming center within the industrial park in Cascade Locks.
Tribal council chair Ron Suppah thanked Walden at the April 1 luncheon for his tireless efforts on behalf of constituents within the 20th Congressional District.
He said the tribe had decided to attend the Cascade Locks celebration because the two communities shared a common vision for better economic times.
“As long as we’re good neighbors, I think we can always move something forward,” Suppah said.
Local officials and visiting dignitaries had gathered in Cascade Locks to express to Walden their gratitude for the $500,000 he had scored in federal funding. However, much of their conversation strayed to speculation over the casino.
Following Walden’s pledge of support, attention turned back to the funding for design work on the $5 million renovation of the narrow and low underpass at the entrance to the park.
“This is a really important project to help the community stay connected to what is important: its growth and quality of life,” said Walden.
Walden also took time to admire the newly remodeled pavilion, which is now enclosed, heated, and equipped with a sound system. The ambience of the building has been increased by a vaulted wooden ceiling and soft lighting.
Other planned upgrades in the near future include restrooms and acid staining of the concrete floor so that it resembles marble.
Port Director Chuck Daughtry said Walden’s visit served as one of the first official uses of the new event center.
The assembly of dignitaries at the event included government leaders within the county, as well as Jim Azumano, director of the state’s new rural policy office, Dan Harkenrider, area manager for the U.S. Forest Service and John Trumbell, representative from Union Pacific Railroad.