The Department of the Interior to Decide About the “Destiny” of California’s Hard Rock Casino

November 4, 2020 John Isaac

The final draft of an environmental impact assessment on the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino proposed for south of Bakersfield has finally been published by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Hard Rock Cafe Logo Over Slot Machines Room in the Background The Department of the Interior has 30 days to determine whether the proposal will go forward, however, the earliest decision that could come forward in mid-November.

The final draft of the environmental assessment comes to an end after a five-year process initiated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs once the Tejon Indian Tribe officially suggested constructing a casino south of Bakersfield on farmland.

Local government officials have strongly endorsed the $600 million scheme, and it could add up to 2,000 permanent jobs for residents living in the city.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs presented multiple alternatives in its report that can be chosen by the Department of Interior.

On a 306-acre plot of land just west of Mettler, the most expansive options will allow the Tejon Tribe to develop a 400-room hotel and casino, along with an RV park and live entertainment venue.

The same casino complex will be relocated to a 118-acre plot along Maricopa Highway, less than a mile west of the Mettler location, another choice. The Maricopa location, while fundamentally close to the first alternative, would restrict the right of the tribe to position housing and government support facilities on the land.

The Environmental Protection Agency also acknowledged that the site of Mettler theoretically put crucial parts of the facilities of the property within a floodplain.

The Casino Was Supported by Residents of Kern County During a July Meeting

A smaller hotel and casino or only a basic organic farm is available in the Mettler region as well. The Indian Affairs Bureau may even oppose the project completely.

Dozens of comments made by members of the public were included in the final draft of an environmental impact statement. The casino obtained broad support during a July meeting from individuals who identified themselves as residents of Kern County.

The government agency was attacked in its letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, stating the environmental impact statement was seriously flawed and neglected the pandemic of the coronavirus and resulting economic fallout.

The Casino Might Not Be Opened Until 2022

The department also received negative comments from Stand Up California! – an organization that has been out against the casino in the past.

“The economic benefit of the casino may not be realized because ongoing public health concerns are likely to result in reduced attendance. Even if the pandemic were to end in the next six months, the public health issues this pandemic has brought to the fore are not going to go away,” – wrote Stand Up California.

Responding to that, the agency mentioned that the construction will most likely not start until 2022 and that other casinos as well have opened following the COVID-19 restrictions. Furthermore, it stated that they should also consider the socio-economic benefit of the project alternatives such as job openings, wage income earned by local employees, and state and local taxes. According to them, they may be more important than the original estimates in the Draft EIS considering the economic situation the industry is at the moment.

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