Several members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde say they oppose plans for a new casino in North Salem on land held in trust by the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

During a public meeting Wednesday, Grand Ronde tribal members expressed concern over a proposal to build a casino in North Salem, on a 20-acre parcel held in trust for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

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An artist's rendering shows the proposed 180,800 square foot casino with a 500-room hotel and event center will be located in North Salem if approved.

An artist's rendering shows the proposed 180,800 square foot casino with a 500-room hotel and event center will be located in North Salem if approved.

Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians / The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians

Michael Langley, tribal council secretary for Grand Ronde, said the tribe as a whole does not support the proposal, since the Siletz tribes already have a casino: Chinook Winds, in Lincoln City. Langley said its location along the Oregon Coast already gives them an advantage over neighboring tribes, including Grande Ronde.

“We have made ongoing investments to our property based on the premise of one casino per tribe, especially since we do not have a natural draw to our area,” Langley said. “Siletz still has an amazing opportunity to be successful at Chinook Winds. They are not empty handed.”

The Siletz’s proposed casino is just over 30 miles from Grand Ronde’s Spirit Mountain Casino west of Salem. Many tribal members said they’d be direct competition.

“We cannot support projects that take money out of one tribe’s pocket and place it in another, especially when it would have devastating impacts,” said tribal member Lisa Leno. “Siletz already has a class three casino located on the beautiful Oregon coast, one of the most traveled to locations in the state of Oregon. It is not right to take our livelihood away so that another may benefit.”

Dee Pigsley, Tribal Council chairman of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, released the following statement in response to the comments at the meeting:

“We are disappointed with the Grande Ronde’s opposition to our Salem Casino Project and their false narrative about how the Casino will deter revenue from existing Oregon casinos and hurt other Tribes. These statements are simply untrue. The mission of The Siletz Casino Project is just the opposite. We intend to share revenue of the property with all Oregon Tribes.”

The statement also said the Grande Ronde had a similar reaction during the approval process for the Ilani Casino in Southwest Washington.

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The project’s draft environmental assessment proponents state, “Chinook Winds faces substantial competition and is not within commuting distance for many Tribal members living in the Willamette Valley who were relocated there as a result of the Termination policy. Over 50% of the Siletz tribal membership resides within commuting distance of the proposed gaming project.”

It goes on to say that revenue from the project would provide additional jobs and increased revenue to expand existing Tribal assistance programs and to meet unmet critical tribal needs.

The meeting was hosted by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs as part of the federal permitting process.

The planned casino includes 56,600 square feet of gaming floor space, dining and retail facilities, a 500-room hotel, and an events center totaling 673,300 square feet.

The majority of the project site is unimproved open land in Salem’s city boundaries.

At the meeting, Patrick Sieng, a real estate broker in Salem and a member of the Board of Directors for Travel Salem, said the project will benefit the area.

“I know many of my colleagues have or will be submitting testimony in support of this opportunity to bring more jobs, economic development, and affordable housing to Salem,” Sieng said.

Jose Gonzalez, Salem city councilor for the fifth ward — where the casino would be — said he’s concerned about safety.

“The report mentions the use of our Salem Police Department, but does not mention a recent audit that noted we are understaffed by 70 officers,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also said the casino would negatively impact the city’s carbon reduction goals, and expressed concern about it’s proximity to the Interstate 5 corridor.

“The main thing is it’s just not the right location for this project,” he said.

The draft environmental assessment was released for public comment on Jan. 7. The comment period for the nearly 3,000-page environmental assessment was extended to April 8.

The draft assessment concluded that most environmental impacts of the proposed project would be “less than significant.” But mitigation measures were included in the draft to offset effects to biological resources, cultural resources, transportation, public services and utilities, and noise.

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