The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs voted during a recent Tribal Council meeting to officially end its pursuit of the Bridge of the Gods Resort and Casino in Cascade Locks. For all intents and purposes, the casino was a dead deal in 2010, when Gov. John Kitzhaber took office for a third term.
The proposed 600,000-square-foot facility on 60 acres of Port of Cascade Locks land was a lightning rod of controversy during its decade of life — which never matured from its planning stage to its implementation stage. The casino would have been located on a subtly beautiful tract of land between Interstate 84 and the Columbia River, near the Forest Lane exit.
A couple of years ago the casino’s environmental impact assessment was approved by the federal government and sent to the Department of the Interior for review. That’s where it sat for a year. Then, in January 2012, the Cascade Locks Port Commission allowed the deadline to expire for an option agreement on port land the tribes had wanted to purchase for the casino and resort. In the meantime, the tribal council built Indian Head Casino on Highway 26 in Warm Springs.
Recently, tribal council members voted to withdraw the state and federal applications they had submitted to build the Cascade Locks casino — apparently due in part to mounting expenses associated with the proposal. The Spilyay Tymoo newspaper reported those expenses to be almost $30 million over the project’s lifespan.
Proponents argued the casino would be good for business, bringing jobs and tourists to the Gorge. Opponents countered that the gaming facility had no business being built in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. From the start of his latest term in office, as well as years prior, Gov. Kitzhaber said he would refuse to sign any order that would allow the casino’s construction.
Though the casino dream is over, Port of Cascade Locks Interim Port Manager Paul Koch noted the port is still looking for parties interested in developing the parcel of land and is still willing to work with the Warm Springs tribes.
“The door is open to anybody who would want to purchase the land — especially Warm Springs, given the relationship the port has with them — but it really doesn’t make sense to pursue a casino at this point,” he said.