Capay Valley Coalition files a legal challenge to oppose Caltrans's plans for State Route 16 Safety Improvement Project.

In 2011 the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation submitted a request to the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to take another 853 acres in the Capay Valley into "trust" status. This action would change the jurisdiction of this land to be part of the Yocha Dehe Nation and take it "out" of Yolo County and the State of California. The Capay Valley Coalition opposes the change of jurisdiction over this land.

The 853 acres in question have been purchased by the Yocha Dehe Nation over the past 20 years with profits from their Cache Creek Casino gambling operations. It is currently part of the Tribe's extensive commercial agricultural operations spanning over10,000 acres of which none is currently in trust. The Tribe is one of the largest land developers and commercial agricultural producers in all of Yolo County.

The stated purpose for placing the 853 acres into trust is for housing and cultural facilities and to conduct their agricultural operations. Specifically they want to build 25 residences for Tribal members, a new Tribal school, up to three cultural/education facilities, a domestic water storage tank, and a wastewater treatment plant. Once land is placed into trust the Tribe has sole jurisdiction over how it is used and developed. The Tribe can change their mind and use the land for purposes other than the stated intention on their trust application.

The Tribe has twice previously placed land into trust for the purpose of "tribal housing". The Tribe's first trust land converted for 'tribal housing" is now home to the Cache Creek Casino and Resort. The second trust land converted for "tribal housing" is now an 18 hole golf course.


The Yolo County Board of Supervisors initially had serious concerns and opposed the trust application on the following grounds:

-- it is not necessary to take 853 acres into trust to achieve the Tribe's state purpose and the County suggested 100 acres would be acceptable

-- the 752 acres described in the application as being needed for agricultural purposes are already in agricultural production, zoned agricultural, and in an area designated and protected by Yolo County for agricultural purposes

-- the application ignores enforceable agreements already in place between the County and the Tribe governing the Tribe's application for any additional trust lands

-- the Tribe is unwilling to enter into an agreement with the County ensuring that only development that is consistent with the stated purpose of housing, education, and cultural preservation (and related infrastructure) will be permitted and will be limited to parcels 9 and 10 as stated in the Environmental Assessment

-- use of the County's clustered agricultural housing ordinance would allow the Tribe to develop a denser group of homes than would typically be allowed on agriculturally zoned parcels in the County and thus fulfill their housing requirement

-- absent an analysis of why trust status is necessary for the Tribe to conduct its agricultural operations on these particular parcels, and given the other paths available to the Tribe in concert with the County, the County is deeply concerned that in the future these existing agricultural parcels may be converted to intense commercial use

The Capay Valley Coalition opposed the trust application on the following grounds:

-- converting further land into trust land removes any jurisdiction on the part of the local, state or national government on the future use of that land. Once the land is in trust it can be changed to other uses solely at the will of the Tribe.

-- intense commercial use of land within the intentionally agricultural Capay Valley impacts neighbors, affects wildlife and the environment, and strains local public resources. When the land is in trust and its use causes impacts or harm there is no possibility of redress. The Tribe has no legal accountability. Impacts due to land and water use, runoff, chemical pollution and sewage disposal can be introduced without State or County oversight. Impacted individuals and groups have no regulatory authority to petition for improvements.

-- a trust application of this magnitude needs a full Environmental Impact Statement to uncover all impacts of this action, bring the decision making process into the open and subject it to public review

-- neighbors adjacent to the proposed trust lands were never notified or made aware of this action including the neighbors who will find themselves directly adjacent to a sewage treatment facility

-- the Tribe establishes the need for taking this land into trust by claiming that their existing trust lands have been fully developed. But that is not the case. The Tribe recently withdrew plans to expand the Cache Creek Casino, build more hotel rooms and 12 luxury cabanas, enhance their wastewater treatment capability and other expansion on their current property in trust.  With that project canceled it appears they have more than enough trust land to build what they indicated they want in the 853 acre trust application.

In April of this year the BIA issued its Notice of Decision to allow the Tribe to take the 853 acres into trust. None of the concerns expressed by Yolo County or the CVC were addressed. The Notice of Decision was filled with rebuttals from the Tribe that do not resolve any concerns and in fact intensify them:

"As for the balance of the trust land - the approximate 753 acres about which the County does object - the Tribe intends to use this land for economic development, as well as to fulfill its right of self-determination."

"Contrary to the County's assumptions, Yocha Dehe's needs, and its people's cultural traditions and values, cannot be fulfilled so long as the lands are within the County's (and State's) jurisdiction and subject to their regulatory authority."

"With the lands maintained under state and local regulatory control, the Tribe possesses traditions and customs that cannot be exercised on those lands if they happen to conflict with a state regulation."

"The Bureau need not consider the County's comments regarding the Tribe's potential future use of the proposed trust parcels."

In an unbelievable abdication of its responsibilities the Yolo County Board of Supervisors decided in a closed door session to NOT follow through with the administrative appeal of the BIA's decision. To date they have not explained the reasons for this inaction and what changed their minds.

The Board has also not explained why they are granting the largest commercial Ag producer in the Capay Valley a waiver on regulations such as Irrigated Lands Program (monitoring pollution and contamination from water runoff), County Agricultural Ordinances (requiring Environmental Impact Assessments, licensing and regulations on most agricultural activities), Groundwater Management (to prevent overdraw of our ground water resources) and other regulations that even the smallest farmers in the Capay Valley must follow.

The Capay Valley Coalition has filed an appeal with the Bureau of Indian Affairs over the Notice of Decision. Some reasons the appeal was filed are:

-- The BIA's decision contained several factual errors which indicates no independent research merely acceptance of information submitted by the applicant.

--The BIA didn't fully evaluate the environmental impacts of this action on the Capay Valley. The CVC and the County had called for a full Environmental Impact Statement .

-- There are significant impacts to the neighboring parcels and the Capay Valley as a whole that have not been addressed.

-- Once these acres are taken out of Yolo County and the State's jurisdiction, they will not be subject to any water regulations. In this year of drought, agencies are busy formulating regulations on ground and surface water. When the rest of us face curtailment and rationing, the Tribal developer of these 853 acres will not.

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