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Proposed Indian Casino Prompts Criticism From Galt Residents

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Standing room only in Galt - not for a Friday night concert or basketball game, but for tough talk about a casino resort proposed by the Miwok Indians of the Wilton Rancheria.

"People move here because they don't want all the hustle and bustle," one man in the crowd said.

"We could really benefit from the tax revenue and the jobs," offered one woman.

The meeting was organized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to allow public comment on the draft environmental impact statement done on the now six possible versions of the project.

"From air quality to water quality to land resources pretty much everything you can think about — socioeconomic," said Chad Broussard, an environmental protection specialist for the BIA.

Flooding concerns stopped the original '7-mile' location in Galt which was first introduced back in March of 2013.

The Twin Cities' area of Galt, a site on the Wilton Rancheria and an abandoned mall site in Elk Grove, are the new choices for a possible casino address.

"When you bring 2,000 full time jobs to the area - to the tribe and community as well - it's going to be very huge," said Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock.

"I'm the only one in my family to go to and graduate from college, let alone get a Ph.d and I wouldn't have been able to do that if it wasn't for gaming tribes," said Melissa Leal, the education director for Wilton Rancheria.

For the Miwok, it's all about relying less on government subsidies and creating a better quality of life for the tribe.

For many in the crowd gathered at the Chabolla Community Center, fighting the casino plan is about maintaining the quality of life in a more rural community.

"We cannot handle the traffic. Highway 99 is bumper to bumper now," said one woman to a loud round of applause.

"So this would be a contributor to that traffic, but mitigation measures such as lane improvements and improvements to the interchange would be ready," said John Rydzik, an environmental scientist with the BIA.

Carol Louis came to the meeting to share what living near the Shingle Springs Rancheria has done to her community.

"I live one mile from the casino. It has affected our property values. We hear the gun range. On the same property they put a motocross track...a huge environmental impact which has the state of California will not address," she said.

"I'm very supportive of the Miwok, but not in my backyard." said another community member who signed up to present his concerns to the BIA.

The city of Galt has asked the bureau for 30 more days for its small staff to evaluate the draft environmental report.

No answers were given to the questions and comments raised Friday night.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs says it will provide those as it works the public's concerns into its final environmental impact statement, which is due out in a few months.