By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
A broken sewage system serving the Lucky 7 Casino is forcing Smith River Rancheria to build a new septic system on nearby residentially zoned land.
A public hearing to discuss the project is set for 7 p.m. tonight in the Flynn Center on H Street in Crescent City.
Some neighbors of the project are fearful the large septic system might create bad odors and be unsightly, but Rancheria representatives say those fears are groundless.
According to the Rancheria, the current project, to be located on Oceanview Drive one half mile north of the Lucky 7 Casino, is designed to serve the casino's sewer needs until a larger wastewater treatment plant can be built in about seven years.
Rancheria officials say they believe some concerned residents are confusing the small septic tank project, up for review now, and the major wastewater treatment facility, which is proposed for the future.
No site has been chosen for the proposed wastewater treatment facility and its proposed ocean outfall. Rancheria officials say it will not be located on Oceanview Drive.
"Right now they have to deal with the problem they have," said Jay Sarina of the Del Norte County Planning Department.
The septic system serving the casino now is causing untreated wastewater to back up into the casino and float to the surface of the leach field, according to a report filed with the county by engineering firm Winzler and Kelly.
"The failure is a public health threat and the proposed method is the most expeditious and cost effective," the Winzler and Kelly report said.
Three septic tanks and a set of underground leach pipes are the only equipment planned for the Oceanview Drive location.
The completely underground system will serve Lucky 7 Casino and could serve a hotel, gas station and laundry facility, if those are built.
A Rancheria spokesperson said after the new septic system is built, the leach field will be removed and one or two houses will be built on the property.
Before installing the septic system in the now empty cow pasture, the Rancheria must get approval from the Del Norte County Planning Commission. If approval and permits are granted in a timely manner, the system will be installed in a couple of months.
The Rancheria owns the property, but it is still under the county's jurisdiction and subject to county codes and permitting requirements. It is not land in trust status under the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
At the public hearing tonight, the county planning commission will decide whether to grant the Rancheria a variance to use the lot for the septic system.
Staff members of the Del Norte County Planning Department are recommending a yes vote for the project to resolve the current casino septic problems.
Despite those explanations, some neighors are still apprehensive.
"We feel like we're being taken for a ride. They've obviously been talking about this for some time, but they haven't been talking to us," said Marilyn Scott, who owns a lot next to the Rancheria's lot designated for the septic system project.