Casino in Ashland?

The city of Ashland plans to “express concerns” to U.S. government officials over the possibility of a nearby casino if a Siskiyou County tribe is successful in restoring federal recognition.
Ruffey Rancheria, a tribal group descended from Indian villages in central Siskiyou County, California, has been advocating for the restoration of federal recognition for decades after Congress terminated its status in 1958.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, California, introduced House Resolution 3535 — the “Ruffey Rancheria Restoration Act of 2017” — in July last year to restore federal recognition of the Rancheria and set forth steps for restoring more than 440 acres of land to its members.
If passed, it could allow for a casino on reservation land, according to the bill.
“The potential ripple effect of this legislation is allowing another tribe the potential to have a casino in the Rogue Valley,” Ashland acting City Administrator Adam Hanks said Monday.
Siskiyou County is just across the border in California. The location of the tribe’s land hasn’t been formalized, but staff said it would “play a significant role” in determining whether the restored lands would qualify for a gaming casino in Southern Oregon.
Hanks explained that there’s a 25-mile radius around the land that could be applied as a designated site for a casino, and Ashland could potentially be in it.
There hasn’t been any progress on the bill this year.
“I don’t know if it has legs at the federal level,” Hanks said Monday, adding that the council could draft a letter recognizing the significance of restoring the tribe’s recognition, but also highlighting the concerns of having a casino in or near the city.
City Councilor Rich Rosenthal said at the meeting he’s “inclined to send a letter expressing concerns.”
“We don’t know where it is going to go,” he said.
Other councilors echoed Rosenthal’s sentiment. They unanimously directed staff to draft the letter.
The city hasn’t been in contact with the tribal group, Hanks said.
New water plant moves ahead
The council also unanimously agreed Monday to pursuing planning of a brand new 7.5 million gallon a day (mgd) water treatment plant.
The plan, proposed by Public Works Director Paula Brown, is based on a risk assessment of the city’s existing plant and a cost comparison conducted recently by R2H Engineering in partnership with Black and Veatch.
Under the new plan, the city will abandon plans for a 2.5 mgd water treatment plant and a 2.6 mgd reservoir project that were proposed in the city’s 2012 Water Master Plan. The 2.5 mgd plant would have been the city’s new primary water treatment plant, supplemented by the old plant as needed. The 7.5 mgd treatment plant will be the only plant for the city, Brown said.
“There’s no way a city of our size should run two plants concurrently,” Brown said Monday night. “That wasn’t a good idea, personally and professionally.”
Brown said the city could manage to make through the next 20 years by rehabilitating the existing plant at 25 percent the cost of building the 7.5 mgd facility, but it “can’t overcome the seismic issue,” along with the rist of fire, floods and a lack of expansion capacity due to its hemmed-in location on Ashland Creek.
The city budgeted more than $22 million in this biennium budget for the project. It has spent more than $500,000 so far — the remaining funding “will get us going,” Brown said.
“But there won’t be construction in this biennium,” she added.
The total cost of the new plant has yet to be formalized as it depends on how the city wants to update its treatment process among other elements. Brown said staff will come back in a couple of months with an estimate.
Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.

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