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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 23rd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 42

County submits amended comments on Chumash fee-to-trust application

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Santa Barbara County recently added more paperwork to the stack of comments piling up at the Bureau of Indian Affairs over the Santa Ynez Band of Indians fee-to-trust application.

The additional letters were submitted at the tail end of a public comment period for the tribe’s revised fee-to-trust application on its nearly 1,400-acre Camp 4 property in the Santa Ynez Valley. The comment period was established after the tribe withdrew its volatile tribal consolidation plan earlier this year. The BIA approved that plan in June, and it caused an uproar in Santa Barbara County. After the bureau approved the plan’s withdrawal, the tribe revised its fee-to-trust application and it was re-circulated, giving folks a chance to revise their comments accordingly.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr sent an e-mail to her constituents on Dec. 18, informing them that the county responded in opposition to the revised application. Outlined in the letter are reasons pointed against fee-to-trust. Those include the loss of county tax revenue and land-use control, non-compliance with the county and Santa Ynez land-use plans, Camp 4 being off-reservation, and the need for a full-blown environmental impact statement.

If successful, the “fee-to-trust” process would deed the Camp 4 property over to the government on the tribe’s behalf, putting it under sovereign control of the Chumash. When the tribe first submitted its fee-to-trust application, a tribal consolidation plan was part of the package. The plan labeled approximately 11,000 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley as potential land for future tribal acquisition.

The tribe decided to withdraw the consolidation plan as a way to alleviate some of the backlash within the county.

Sam Cohen, a spokesperson for the tribe, said removing the plan doesn’t harm the fee-to-trust application.

According to Dennis Bozanich, assistant to the county executive officer, the county is asking the BIA to revise the environmental assessment that was submitted as part of the application package.

Bozanich said the tribal consolidation plan was part of the environmental assessment as well, and it should therefore be treated similarly to the fee-to-trust process.

“It would be the county’s position that the environmental process be started again as well,” Bozanich said.

Santa Barbara County penned its opposition to the assessment earlier this year, and completed its first round of fee-to-trust comments in October. During that month, the Board of Supervisors also responded to proposed legislation introduced to allow the tribe to annex its Camp 4 parcel.

The next step in the process is for the tribe to respond to all the comments submitted on the environmental assessment. Cohen said the tribe is slogging through those right now.