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EID-Indian treaty likely

By: Roger Phelps The Telegraph
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Around water for Red Hawk Casino, war appears headed for peace between the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and the El Dorado Irrigation District. District board members May 12 reviewed a draft memorandum of understanding between district and tribe. If adopted, the agreement would establish tribal right to buy water from the district in the amount of approximately 135,000 gallons a day to serve Red Hawk Casino on the Shingle Springs Rancheria between Shingle Springs and Placerville. The casino will open in December. The draft agreement also would set the stage for future connection of the rancheria to EID's wastewater system. In the past EID has stuck to a 1988 ruling barring expanded water service to the reservation issued by the El Dorado County Local Agency Formation Commission. The tribe has threatened to sue the district over the matter. "It's moving forward," said Tribal Chairman Nicholas Fonseca. "The draft document is basically a settlement agreement. It responds to our threat to sue." A legal opinion issued March 5 by counsel for the federal Department of the Interior tends to support the tribe's request for EID water, and to cloud the validity of the 1988 LAFCO ruling. At the May 12 session, EID Director Harry Norris noted that, absent the LAFCO ruling, the district is in the business of selling water to any customers who request it. "We can't pick and choose our customers simply because there may be a drought down the road," Norris said. "We have enough water to serve the casino." One clause in the draft agreement states, "The Band will be treated the same as all other customers under district procedures and practices, including EID's drought-preparedness plan." In addition, the MOU if adopted would require the tribe to pay a total of $3.7 million in hookup fees and to allow the district control of and access to water lines. The 1988 LAFCO ruling prevents the district from supplying more than residential-use water to the rancheria. The Interior Department opinion suggests the LAFCO of 1988 might have been trying regulate land use on an Indian reservation, federal land, and that such an action is illegal under federal law. The Telegraph’s Roger Phelps can be reached at rogerp@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment at folsomtelegraph.com