Last month, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the publication of the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's land-in-trust application. The tribe is currently recognized by the federal government, but does not have the rights and benefits associated with trust lands or federally protected reservations.
In addition to the 151 acres of Taunton land earmarked for the tribe's proposed resort casino, the DEIS includes 170 acres in Mashpee.
The DEIS, according to a notice issued by the Town of Mashpee this week, describes the impact the actions of the tribe will have as relates to several factors including transportation, wastewater, air quality, cultural resources and noise, among other issues.
Section 5.0 of the DEIS pertains to the land in Mashpee. The 170 acres in Mashpee is made up of 11 parcels currently used by the tribe for a variety of purposes. These parcels include the Old Indian Meetinghouse land, two cemeteries, tribal government center land and other assorted properties.
The largest parcel, parcel 6 is the 58.7 acre site of the tribe's government offices. Construction on the new tribal government center began in September 2012 and according to the BIA, any approved and permitted work on the land is not a "connected action" and will not be impacted by the approval or denial of the tribe's land-in-trust application. The same is true for all the Mashpee parcels including the second largest tract of land, parcel 8. Parcel 8, 46.82 acres, is currently vacant, but the proposed location of tribal affordable housing.
According to the DEIS, the Mashpee parcels have been owned by the tribe for years and the uses of these lands will not change whether or not the land-in-trust application is approved. The Cape Cod land is included in the application because according to the DEIS, "acquisition of the Mashpee parcels into trust is necessary to aid the Tribe in accomplishing its goals of self-determination and self-governance, including its mission to house, educate and otherwise provide for its members."
The DEIS includes four alternatives, none of which include any "foreseeable new development projects" in Mashpee. The alternatives are A: Proposed Development, B: Reduced Intensity I, C: Reduced Intensity II and D: No Action.
Locally, a BIA hearing will be held on December 2, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at Mashpee High School. Taunton residents will have their own hearing on December 3, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at Taunton High School. Written comments are also welcome and must be submitted prior to January 17, 2014. Initially, comments were due by December 30, 2013, but the period was extended by the BIA.
The DEIS is available for review at the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Headquarters at 483 Great Neck Road South in Mashpee, at the Mashpee Public LIbrary at 64 Steeple Street and online here.