An Overview of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria’s Resort, Hotel and Casino
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria’s proposed resort, hotel and casino (the project) provides the public with a comprehensive, expert and objective analysis of the full range of the project’s potential effects on the environment and surrounding communities.
Key Facts about the EIS
- The EIS was prepared by the National Indian Gaming Commission and has been certified under the National Environmental Policy Act.
- The EIS took five years to complete and fills seven volumes containing approximately 8,000 pages.
- The EIS combines detailed research, analysis and commentary reflecting the views of 10 expert consultants and public officials in 30 different local, state and federal agencies.
- It specifically responds to each of the 349 written and oral comments submitted during the public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement, which included two separate informational sessions and public hearings.
- Copies of the Final EIS have been mailed to all interested parties and are available for review at www.gratoneis.com.
Mitigation Measures and Environmental Improvement
The depth of the impact analysis and the extent of the mitigation measures set forth in the EIS to address adverse project impacts go far beyond the work that was done for recent projects in Sonoma County, such as the new Wal-Mart and Target stores and the Sonoma County Inn. In many cases the mitigation measures the Tribe has committed to will not only address project impacts but also improve the environment and provide net benefits to the community.
Protecting Local Water Resources
The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria are fully committed to protecting one of the region’s most precious resources – water. The Tribe will enact the recommended measures in the EIS to ensure that its project has the least possible impact on local water supplies, and it will also pay for additional measures to study, improve and restore local water resources.
- Under California law, any water rights granted to the Tribe once its new reservation is established are subject to the vested water rights of existing water users. The Tribe cannot use its status as a sovereign entity to shield itself from the enforcement of these existing rights.
Local Water Supply and Impacts
- Because the Project will be supplied entirely by its own groundwater wells and distribution system, it will have little, if any, impact on the water supplies and distribution systems of others.
- The approximately 325 acre-feet per year that will be used by the project represents only 0.8 to 1.0 percent of current groundwater demand and 1.0 to 1.7 percent of future groundwater demand in the Santa Rosa Valley Groundwater Basin.
- Although the project’s impact on local and regional groundwater demand will be minor, the Tribe will implement a groundwater monitoring program and participate in regional groundwater studies.
- The Tribe will work with the City of Rohnert Park and the Sonoma County Water Agency to implement a water conservation program or a conjunctive water use program.
- The Tribe will compensate neighboring well owners for effects, if any, on their wells due to the project.
Water Use Efficiency
- The Tribe will implement advanced water conservation measures such as low-flow faucets and showerheads, use of recycled water for toilets and landscaping, a re-circulating cooling loop for water-cooled refrigeration and ice machines, and voluntary towel and linen re-use by guests in the hotel.
Commitment to Improving Local Transportation
In the coming years, the Tribe will fund a wide range of mitigation measures specified in the EIS to address local and regional transportation issues. Implementation of these mitigation measures will improve roads and intersections near the project and improve Highway 101.
- The EIS calls for major improvements for the intersections closest to the project, including Wilfred/Stony Point, Langner/Wilfred, and Labath/Wilfred.
Highway 101 Ramps
- The EIS calls for the Tribe to assist in improving Highway 101. Specifically, the Tribe will assist with improvements to the Rohnert Park Expressway and Wilfred Road interchanges.
- The Tribe will also participate in funding a new bridge across Highway 101 to connect Business Park Drive and State Farm Drive. The new overcrossing will relieve traffic congestion in the Rohnert Park Expressway and Wilfred Road interchanges and provide emergency vehicles faster access to the west side of Rohnert Park.
- To help reduce automobile traffic, the EIS indicates that the Tribe will sponsor charter buses from Marin County and other destinations. Additionally, the Tribe will utilize traffic control services to address high traffic levels in the area.
- The Tribe will provide shuttle service between the resort and Rohnert Park transit hubs to encourage the use of mass transit.
- The Tribe will establish carpool or vanpool spaces at the resort to encourage ridesharing.
- The resort will include bicycle and pedestrian-friendly facilities.
Endorsement of the SMART Solution
- The EIS recommends that the Tribe support long term regional transit options to alleviate congestion on Highway 101. Consistent with this recommendation, the Tribe has already provided financial support for the campaign to secure funding for SMART and remains committed to the successful implementation of this project. According to its proponents, SMART will reduce the number of automobiles on the highways, cut greenhouse gas emissions and encourage more advanced, environmentally-friendly modes of travel.
Bringing Growth to Sonoma County’s Economy
The socio-economic analysis in the EIS indicates that the project would bring increased employment and revenue to the City of Rohnert Park and Sonoma County. The project will provide an important stimulus to the North Bay economy, which is currently in recession and suffering from a seven percent unemployment rate.
Direct Economic Effects
- The EIS states that the project will generate substantial economic activity within Sonoma County, including construction, patronage at local private businesses, and new local tax revenue. This increased economic activity is expected to generate $275 million in annual economic benefits to the region through additional consumer spending, business investment, job creation, payroll, and increased sales and property tax revenue.
- The construction of the resort will create approximately 750 jobs with an annual payroll of $30-40 million. These much-needed jobs will help replace some of the more than 900 building-related jobs lost last year in Sonoma County due to the decline in housing construction.
- The EIS indicates that operation of the resort will directly create approximately 2,500 jobs. These jobs will have an annual payroll of $67 million and will help to reverse the job losses in Sonoma County – projected at 4,000 this year alone.
- To address recent job losses throughout the region, the project will also indirectly create as many as 1,655 new jobs by local vendors doing business with the Tribe, adding another $153 million to the local economy.
- The 750 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs at the resort will include a living wage and comprehensive benefits package. These jobs will help to offset the economic decline that produced a 77 percent increase in bankruptcy filings in Sonoma County in 2008.
Revenue Increases for the City of Rohnert Park – The EIS indicates that the resort will bring increased revenue and contributions that will augment the City of Rohnert Park’s budget.
- Pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Tribe and the City of Rohnert Park, the Tribe will contribute over $200 million to the City over 20 years, including $9 million in annual payments and charitable contributions and at least $18 million in one time payments. These contributions will help stabilize Rohnert Park’s current fiscal crisis, which includes a deficit of at least $7 million and the annual loss of an additional $3.4 million due to the sewer rate rollback.
- The Tribe will provide $5 million each year in lieu of city taxes and will donate $2,664,000 to Rohnert Park in lieu of normal development fees. These contributions will help mitigate Rohnert Park’s budget problems, which have resulted in a 10 percent spending reduction and forced the sale of city lands.
- The Tribe will also provide annual charitable contributions of $1 million to be used by Rohnert Park for neighborhood upgrades or workforce housing programs, $1 million for Rohnert Park-Cotati schools, and $2 million for a charitable foundation – governed by a local board of directors – to fund programs that enhance Rohnert Park and Sonoma State University.
- The Tribe has pledged $2 million for organic community gardens, which will strengthen neighborhoods and improve housing values.
Revenue Increases and Community Improvements for the County of Sonoma – The EIS indicates that the resort will bring increased revenue and contributions that will augment Sonoma County’s budget.
- The EIS indicates that the Tribe’s Memorandum of Understanding with Sonoma County will provide annual payments to mitigate specific fiscal impacts related to crime and other identified effects of the project.
- The economic growth that is stimulated by the project through increased business with local vendors and additional tourists attracted to the region will help bolster not only Sonoma County’s budget but also the budgets of cities throughout the County which have all experienced a sharp decline in sales and property taxes and related real estate taxes and fees.
- The EIS states that the Tribe and Sonoma County will address public safety needs in addition to the funding provided for public safety services outlined in the Rohnert Park MOU.
- The Tribe has already advanced $2.63 million under the Rohnert Park MOU for a special public safety unit to combat gangs and other criminal activity.
- The EIS calls for the Tribe to implement responsible gaming practices and provide annual payments for problem gambling treatment and prevention programs, including $125,000 in annual payments specified in the Rohnert Park MOU.