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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 12:01 am | Fair 47º


Chumash Camp 4 Bill Introduced in Congress

Northern California congressman takes the lead on legislation to allow annexation of 1,400-acre property

A bill that would allow the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians to take Camp 4 into trust via the legislative process was introduced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill was introduced Wednesday night by Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a Republican representing California’s 1st District, and referred to a House Committee on Natural Resources.

News of the backed bill spread Thursday, more than a week after the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to pursue all avenues of opposition to the annexation of Camp 4, a 1,400-acre parcel of agricultural land near the 138-acre valley reservation.

The Chumash bought the land in 2010 from the late Fess Parker, and has said it wants to build homes there for tribal members.

The fee-to-trust process has been contentious because it would effectively remove the land from the county’s tax rolls and from the oversight of the county planning processes.

Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta has repeatedly said that the tribe would work with county government or without it, which the latest legislation seems to prove true.

"It was a momentous day in the history of our tribe," Armenta said in a statement Thursday. "Members of the tribe, their children and their grandchildren need a place where they can live and raise their families on tribal land governed by their own tribal government and the Camp 4 land is ideal."

HR 3313 would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Interior to take the land into trust for the benefit of the tribe and other purposes.

The bill was also backed by five cosponsors, including Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-San Fernando Valley; Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock; Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Florida; Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert; and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said Thursday that she would not back the bill. 

“I do not support Rep. LaMalfa’s legislation," Capps said in a statement. "I understand how important this issue is for residents of the Santa Ynez Valley, the Chumash tribe and, indeed, the entire county. That is why I continue to believe a local resolution between the county and the tribe is best for all parties involved.”

The exact language of the bill was not immediately available Thursday, although the legislation includes a provision prohibiting gaming on the land to be taken into trust — a condition tribal officials say they requested.

According to the Chumash, any tribal development on Camp 4 lands would be subject to the rules and review of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers

Density and development would also be subject to tribal government restrictions.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents the Santa Ynez Valley, sent out an email message to supporters Thursday saying that she has encouraged Capps to do everything possible to oppose the legislation and intends to ask senators to do the same if similar legislation is introduced in the Senate.

Farr encouraged fellow opponents to contact Capps' office to express their concerns, noting that introduction of the federal bill was several years in the making.

"So, unfortunately, the introduction of this bill by Congressman LaMalfa, although unwelcome, should not come as a surprise to those of us in the County who have been following this issue closely," she said in the message.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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