10 Key Unresolved Questions to Ask About the Santa Barbara County/Chumash Agreement
- What happens after 2040? The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) expires in 2040. What happens then? Is the Tribe then allowed to do anything it wants on Camp 4, including building a massive amount of commercial development as it proposed in March 2016 and another Casino?
- What guarantees do residents have that open space and ag land will be protected? The agreement references the land uses spelled out in Alternative B of the Environmental Assessment (EA) and notes that land will be preserved as open space and ag use. Once the land is in trust, as indicated in the agreement, then under tribal sovereignty anything can be changed even before 2040.
- What happens if federal legislation is not enacted? The agreement assumes that H.R. 1491 will be amended to incorporate the terms of the agreement. What happens if H.R. 1491 is neither appropriately amended or is not enacted? Is the agreement moot or subject to change by a future County Board of Supervisors and Tribal Council?
- Where is the prohibition on future casinos? The agreement contains no specific prohibition against gaming on Camp 4. The County responds that it is relying on the restrictions and limitation contained in the Environmental Assessment (EA) undertaken by the BIA to add Camp 4 to the Chumash Reservation. First, the County went to Federal Court challenging EA as woefully inadequate as the basis of any regulatory action for Camp 4. Secondly, merely referencing the EA generally in the MOA does not assure compliance by the Tribe. To be enforceable, the limits, conditions, and restrictions of the agreement must be legally and specifically incorporated into the agreement using proper legal language. That is not the case as it stands.
One has to wonder why the Tribe opposes including the restrictions into MOA. From all indications, in this MOA, the County has given up on opposing the expansion of gaming in the Santa Ynez Valley. Is this true?
- Does the small amount the Tribe is required to pay to the County cover potential costs to taxpayers? The agreement provides that the tribe will pay the County a flat fee of $178,500 annually as “approximate offsets to the potential losses and impacts to the County and are intended to support an approximate level of County services to Camp 4, and affected communities.” How was this amount determined? Was it based on planning and engineering of needed infrastructure or delivery of services?
- How is the modest amount of funding the agreement requires that the Tribe pay a source of additional funds to meet new demands? The agreement specifically says that the $178,500 the Tribe will pay will be deducted from the amount it Tribe currently pays to the state that ultimately makes its way to the County under its gaming compact to mitigate impacts from its Casino operations. How is this a new revenue source to address the additional financial needs that will result from this agreement? In other words, isn’t this a ‘bait and switch?”
- Why are County taxpayers forced to pay the extra costs of public safety and other services? The agreement acknowledges that additional fiscal impacts of “law enforcement, fire, and traffic/roads, will be mitigated solely by the County at no additional cost to the Tribe for the term of this Agreement.” So is it correct that these additional costs are the sole responsibility of current and future non-tribal county taxpayers? How does this impact the deficit the County budget is already projecting?
- How does the agreement limit the exporting of groundwater water from Camp 4? There are no provisions in the agreement concerning water consumption. According to a study undertaken by Santa Barbara County, Camp 4 lies on top of a major aquifer that contains a significant amount of the Valley’s best quality water. Aside from a minor limitation regarding landscape watering in a drought, there is no meaningful restriction on water consumption on Camp 4 spelled out in the agreement. The term “no water exportation” is never explicitly used in any documentation, referenced or otherwise.
As noted previously, the County says it is relying on the restrictions contained in the EA undertaken by the BIA to add Camp 4 to the Chumash. As noted already, the County went to Federal Court to challenge EA because of its inadequacy. Secondly, simply referencing the limitations contained in the EA about water use does not assure compliance by the Tribe. To be enforceable, the limits, conditions, and restrictions of the agreement must be legally incorporated into the agreement using the proper legal language. That is not the case. Without this, residents could be at risk from the Tribe potentially exporting water out of the valley for its profit.
- How does the County reconcile its previous legal arguments against the Camp 4 Environment Assessment (EA) to now supporting an agreement with the Chumash that relies on it? The proposed deal reflects an absolute and complete reversal of the County’s previous position on Camp 4. In fact, the County has gone to court on behalf of residents and taxpayers asserting that the environmental analysis undertaken by the federal government on Camp 4 is wholly inadequate. Now, the proposed agreement incorporates this flawed study. The County does not justify this complete flip-flop. Was there any legal, technical or economic analysis undertaken?
- Will there be a height restriction for the development occurring on Camp 4? The agreement relies on alternative b on the EA which spells out the land uses on Camp 4. However, the EA spells out that tribal housing would be constructed along with a 12,000 square foot tribal facility with that would accommodate 400 people. There is no height restriction and does not define “commercial activities.” As such, suggested limitations in this regard suffer from the same defect of the failure to adequately incorporate constraints on any and all commercial activities.