WASHINGTON - The final environmental impact statement for the Ho-Chunk Nation's Beloit casino-resort proposal has been completed, marking another key step in the process.
Early Friday morning, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published a notice of availability of a final environmental impact statement for the project and responded to public comments about the proposal made last year.
Today's announcement follows a draft environmental impact statement being published by the bureau on Nov. 9 and a public hearing on Dec. 11 in Beloit. Now stakeholders and residents have 30 days to submit additional public comments on the final document.
According to Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature Public Relations Officer Ryan Greendeer, the bureau has another 30 days following the closure of the public comment period to render a decision.
"Only after the (environmental impact statement) EIS is accepted can (BIA) give a decision on the complete fee-to-trust application," Greendeer said.
If approved by federal authorities, the plan would head to Gov. Tony Evers for a final decision on the project. The EIS fleshes out a proposal to transfer 33-acres of land into trust status as part of a 73.5-acre plot owned by Ho-Chunk near Willobrook and Colley roads in Beloit, adjacent to the Interstate 39/90 Beloit Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center. The document also expands on four options for the development including: the full project (casino/hotel/entertainment space/adjacent retail); a reduced casino and commercial development; only a retail development and finally a no action/no development option. Ho-Chunk, Beloit and Rock County officials are all-in on the full project option.
In a joint news release, Ho-Chunk and Beloit officials hail today's announcement as a "new milestone," saying the project will allow "one of the most significant entertainment developments and job creators" in the Stateline Area.
"We've been working with our partners on getting this project off the ground. This is just another step in the whole process, but it's building a great amount of excitement. We'll be pleased to see the impact that the Ho-Chunk Nation can have on the unemployment in the Beloit area and beyond," said Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland.
"The City of Beloit is thrilled to see this process move forward. We are committed to our partnership with the Ho-Chunk Nation and are ready to hit the ground running," said Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther. "The hard-working families of Beloit deserve the livable wages and quality benefits this development will bring to our community. This game-changing project significantly and positively impacts the city's ability to provide high-quality services for all residents and taxpayers."
Those wishing to make public comment may do so by mailing or hand-delivering written comments to Timothy LaPointe, Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Midwest Region, Norman Pointe II Building, 5600 West American Boulevard, Suite 500, Bloomington, Minnesota 55347. The bureau asks those providing comments include name, return address, and the caption: "FEIS Comments, Ho-Chunk Nation Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project," on the first page of your written comments.