Otter Tail County board considering further environmental review on Star Lake casino

Officials in Otter Tail County, on July 11, accepted a consultant’s recommendation to continue its environmental review of the White Earth Nation’s Star Lake casino complex proposal. The board of commissioners is now accessing whether there is a need for further environmental review via an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Issues having to do with the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) in relation to the proposed casino and resort on the shores of Star Lake on its southwest side were addressed by the board on July 11.

The board now has until August 22 to decide whether it will go ahead with an EIS, which is a more stringent level of environmental review versus that of an EAW. The hearing will take place in Fergus Falls at the County Government Services Center at 1pm.

The Daily Journal reports that County Attorney, Davie Hauser says that before the board is able to make an informed decision it will need some time to take questions and comments from citizens and other stakeholders into consideration.

At the meeting in July, Twin Cities-based Houston Engineering requested a 30-day extension in order to address fully all EAW-related questions and determine what the scope of the EIS should be. The developer, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, also reportedly requested the same to continue its analysis of the many comments received and to request more information. Moreover, Houston Engineering Representative, Larry Krampa, said the White Earth Nation still has information that is needed for the environmental review, according to the news agency. After discussing the issue at length, the Otter Tail County Board voted to approve a 45-day extension.

Late in September 2015, the White Earth Nation announced plans to build the Shooting Star Casino and Resort in Otter Tail County near the intersection of Highway 41 and 380th Street. The casino, which was at the time projected to open this year, would be built on tribal land, while the parking lot would be constructed on about 225 acres of “fee land” purchased by the Nation. The fee land falls within the jurisdiction of Otter Tail County and the State of Minnesota.

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Members of the Otter Tail County Planning Commission will address the proposed casino parking lot’s conditional use permit application at a later date.

In addition to a gambling facility, the project reportedly includes an 180-room hotel, full-service bar and grill, restaurant, a 10,000-square-foot conference center, 6,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor pool and spa area, gift shop, entertainment lounge, RV park, as many as 850 slot machines and other amenities. It 7BALL CC would be the third casino in Minnesota to operate under the umbrella of the Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Entertainment Company. The White Earth nation’s other two gambling venues include the Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Entertainment in Mahnomen and Shooting Star Casino in Bagley, Minnesota, which opened in August 2016.

The project has been met with intense opposition from some local residents who worry about the potential harm increased traffic will have on wetlands, and the character of the rural area comprised mostly of family owned resorts and seasonal lake cabins.