Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell and fellow tribe members are celebrating the US Department of Interior's approval of the federal Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the tribe's land-in-trust application. According to a statement from the tribe, Chairman Cromwell was contacted by Kevin Washburn, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary with the news Wednesday.
"The Interior Department's approval of the DEIS represents a key milestone in the acquisition of land for our tribe," said Chairman Cromwell.
Should the land in-trust application meet final approval, the federal government will take designated land in Taunton and Mashpee into trust for the tribe.
The Taunton land is the proposed future home of the tribe's Project First Light--a casino resort with hotels, restaurants, shops and a water park.
The DEIS is a complete analysis of proposed land use for the 151-acre property in Taunton as well as the additional parcels in Mashpee.
Now that the DEIS has been approved, the government will enter it in the Federal Register and make the DEIS available to the public for review. Once released, the Department of the Interior will announce a public comment period and a series of public hearings.
Once the public hearings are held and public comment is reviewed, a favorable outcome for the tribe would mean an issuing of a final EIS, then a record of decision (ROD), ultimately authorizing the land acquisition and trust.
Two weeks ago, the Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a revised revenue-sharing compact between the tribe and the state. The first compact that was approved by both parties in 2012 was rejected by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs on the grounds that the compact didn't fully support the best interests of the tribe. Governor Deval Patrick who developed the first compact with the tribe, submitted a revised compact to the legislature in March. It has taken until this month to push through and it is now in the hands of the state Senate.