December 28, 2005
Citizens on both sides of the Columbia River are mobilizing to stop a tribal gaming casino from being built anywhere in the Gorge.
John Randall, co-founder of Cascade Locks No Casino, said the group is broadening its support base. He has joined with Skamania County, Wash., resident Paul Smith to start a Mid-Columbia opposition movement.
“‘No Gorge Casino!’ formed out of necessity and common interest,” said Randall. “We who live in the Columbia Gorge are facing the biggest threat in decades to our families, our communities and the environment.
“We have joined hands with our friends across the river to make sure that the Columbia Gorge, our home and also a national scenic treasure, is not turned into a mecca for casino gambling. We support economic self-sufficiency for the tribe and believe that can be achieved without putting a casino in the Gorge,” he continued.
Smith said the 500,000 square foot casino/resort proposed by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs for Cascade Locks would bring both traffic congestion and air pollution. He said the projected three million visitors a year would also harm existing small businesses, introduce more social problems, increase the crime rate and generate urban sprawl.
“If a mega-casino is built in Cascade Locks, Washington residents get all of the costs with little of the benefits,” said Smith. No Gorge Casino! has drafted a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton requesting a consultation. The Warm Springs proposal to site a casino in Cascade Locks’ industrial park is currently under federal review. That project has been approved by Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and virtually all government leaders in Hood River County.
However, Smith and Randall believe that many Gorge residents and elected officials are not fully informed on the issues. So, they are spearheading a public campaign to educate as many citizens as possible about the environmental and social costs associated with a gambling facility.
For example, “No Gorge Casino!” contends that many officials have bought into the “misconception” that the tribe has the right to construct a casino near Hood River.
The Warm Springs own 40 acres of trust property, which has sovereign status and is exempt from regulation, just east of Hood River. Tribal leaders have stated the intent to build a casino on that site if the Cascade Locks plan is turned down.
Randall and Smith believe the tribal property east of Hood River sits on extremely steep terrain and lacks any road access. They also contend that land-use restrictions under the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act would bar the tribe from placing a casino in that location.
Proponents of the Cascade Locks project believe these arguments are flawed and cannot stop a casino from being placed in Hood River. Cascade Locks City Manager Robert Willoughby said anyone with questions can access:
No Gorge Casino! will soon have a new Web site and office to distribute information.
Meanwhile, Randall can be reached at (541) 400-9657 and Smith at (360) 837-2105.