A controversial plan by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indian Tribe to annex more than 1,400 acres of mainly agricultural land in the Santa Ynez Valley into its sovereign nation through the fee-to-trust process has cleared a major hurdle.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has ruled the Tribe’s “Camp 4” fee-to-trust annexation has no significant impacts to the local area.
The Chumash Tribe says it bought the 1,400 acres of land at the northeast corner of Highways 246 and 154 in the Santa Ynez Valley from the estate of the late actor Fess Parker so it can build 143 homes only for tribal members and their families.
The Tribe says its reservation several miles away on Highway 246 cannot accommodate any more housing.
The BIA says a review of the final Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Camp 4 housing development and annexation through fee-to-trust, as well as comments from the public review period, found no negative affect to the “quality of the human environment” in the Santa Ynez Valley and a further Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not required.
Chumash Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta says he’s not surprised by the BIA’s “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) for the Camp 4 plan.
“It comes as no surprise that the BIA reached this conclusion,” Chairman Armenta said in a statement released by the Tribe after the BIA ruling was announced, “their decision was based on a very thorough examination of the Final EA and the comment letters received on the EA. The Tribe is confident that a Notice of Decision will be in favor of bringing the Tribe’s land into trust.”
The final EA and FONSI are available for review at www.ChumashEA.com.
A spokesperson for the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance which has been a leading opponent to the Camp 4 annexation says the group wants to read the BIA ruling in its entirety before commenting on the findings.
It comes as the Chumash Tribe begins construction on a massive expansion of its hotel and casino in Santa Ynez and is nearing the start of construction on a Chumash Cultural Center and Museum on land it annexed across Highway 246 from the hotel and casino.
Armenta says the Tribe plans to continue growing wine grapes and raising cattle on the Camp 4 property which he says has sufficient well water for the new tribal housing.