The land which is owned by Chicago investors has to be transferred to the federal government for the land to be controlled by the Indians from Oroville. Before the land can be transferred, all encumbrances need to be removed from the property including easements for sewage, water conveyance, and flood control. These encroachment agreements and easements require the current landowner to complete drainage and flood control improvements before the land can be sold to another party.
One of the key issues that continues to come to the forefront is whether or not the district loses control once the land is granted to the Indian tribe and becomes a small sovereign nation that does not pay taxes and is not subject to the laws of the state of California or Yuba County.
Letters were sent to the members of the water district board before the meeting by concerned groups who believe that the lifting of the easements is subject to environmental review because moving the existing pipelines under 40 Mile Road to the main canal and filling the Hofman- Alfaro canal with dirt could be considered a major alteration under California law.
The current landowner Yuba Motorplex LLC entered into an agreement with the Water District to complete several repairs on the parcel before constructing a sports entertainment complex.
One of the issues that came to the forefront at the meeting is the problematic nature between local governments and Indian governments. If the filling in of the ditch and moving the pipeline to a different location causes drainage problems for neighboring landowners, neither the landowner nor the district would be able to sue the Indian Tribe.
The special status of tribes as a sovereign nation allows them to set up their own tribal court systems and they must consent to allow outsiders to sue them. Additionally, if the board takes the action of providing exemptions to California environmental laws as part of the process of handing over the easements needed for the project, the district could be sued by neighbors who are worried about their property being flooded.
The agenda for the meeting indicated that, as one of the conditions for easement removal, the landowner and future landowners would be responsible to indemnify the district and pay legal fees for lawsuits that would be filed against the district, because it will be impossible for local landowners to sue the Indian tribe once the land is transferred to them.
Board member Gary Miller was absent. Chairman Michael Rue and Victor Graph voted in favor of giving the easements to the Indians. Board members Jerry Norene and John Belza voted against creating a 2-2 tie.
After the vote Supervisor Roger Abe reminded the Board they were discussing issues related to the project that had not been placed on the agenda.
Abe, a farmer from Wheatland who represents the area in question has expressed concerns on numerous occasions that the area is not suited for this type of development, and that family farms in the area would be impacted by the construction of a mega-resort.
In 2005 the issue was placed on the ballot and the voters voted against the casino project, but the project has continued to move along as the Obama administration recently reversed previous administrations regulations that did not allow Indian tribes to move from their reservation lands to new land for the purposes of building casinos.