Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Spokane council to reexamine decision on STEP


The Spokane Tribe Economic Project has taken a small step closer to becoming a reality.

At their Feb. 3 meeting, Spokane’s City Council introduced a resolution that would rescind an earlier one regarding the council taking a position on the development project.

The project, which would be located off Highway 2 and Craig Road, will consist of a resort casino, hotel, and commercial facilities. It will also feature a Tribal Cultural center and a police and fire station.

In March 2012, the council passed a resolution opposing the project based on the perceived detriment that it would cause to Fairchild Air Force Base. At that time, the Final Environmental Impact Statement was still in its comment period. The Bureau of Indian Affairs published the West Plains Mixed use Development FEIS in February 2013. Since then, the council has found the 2012 resolution was not consistent with the findings in the FEIS.

Through its FEIS, the BIA was able to determine that the project would invest over $350 million in Spokane County, generate revenues for several types of businesses and create over 5,000 jobs in the county. It also determined that the project would not have a negative effect on Fairchild Air Force Base, which has been one of the worries and criticisms of the project.

In addition to the BIA’s study, the Federal Aviation Administration released a study in December 2013 where it determined the project would not be a hazard to air navigation around the base. The FAA had previously issued a letter in 2010 where it stated the roject would not affect flight patterns.

Prior to the FAA’s study, Spokane Tribal Council contracted with Madison Government Affairs Inc., to assess the project. The study found the only encroachment to the air force base pertained to a small mobile home park south of the base. Critics from Greater Spokane Incorporated denounced the assessment, saying it was disingenuous and could be discredited.

GSI Director of Policy, Sandra Jarrard, said her company is not against the project itself, but rather the location. She said Air Force pilots would have to alter their flight plans to avoid the development. She mentioned there is also an issue of public safety.

“We want to ensure that we have Fairchild for present and future generations,” Jarrad said.

The Spokane Tribe is in an agreement with Spokane County and the city of Airway Heights and Cheney for services at the site. At the Feb. 10 study session, Airway Heights’ Mayor Patrick Rushing said the project is in coherence with the Joint Use Land Study. Rushing will attend the Feb. 24 Spokane City Council meeting to answer questions on behalf of the city.

Contact Rudy Peone, Spokane Tribal Council Chairman, mentioned he would attend the city council meeting and hopes council passes the new resolution.

The resolution not only rescinds the council’s previous resolution, but also encourages the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to review the FEIS in making a two-part determination as to whether or not the project is in the best interests of the Spokane Tribe and is not detrimental to the neighboring community.

If the secretary approves the project, Gov. Jay Inslee will be presented with the FEIS. He must concur with the secretary’s determination before gaming can occur on the site.

Al Stover can be reached at

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