Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Pala Tribe given new deadline for Highway 76 funding pact

The County of San Diego has extended an agreement with the Pala Band of Mission Indians to improve State Route 76.

The agreement makes June 30, 2015, the date by which the Pala

tribe must enter into an agreement with the California Department of Transportation to fund $20 million of operational improvements for the state highway. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved that extension from June 30, 2010, on a 5-0 vote May 19.

In August 2007 the county supervisors approved an agreement with the Pala nation in which the tribe would pay $20 million to widen Highway 76 between the Rosemary’s Mountain quarry and the Pala Casino, $13 million for the widening and realignment of Highway 76 between Interstate 15 and Rosemary’s Mountain, and $5 million for improvements to the state highway along the casino frontage. The agreement also called for the Pala tribe to provide fair share contributions to the improvements of the interchange at Interstate 15 and Highway 76 as part of the $20 million payment.

In September 1999 the Pala Band of Mission Indians and the State of California entered into a tribal-state gaming compact which allowed the tribe to operate Class III gaming machines on reservation or off-reservation trust lands. A 2004 amendment to that compact requires that prior to any additional casino expansion the tribe must negotiate with the County of San Diego and enter into an agreement to provide mitigation for off-reservation impacts along with provisions to compensate the county for public safety and gambling addiction costs.

The Pala tribe desires to expand its casino facilities from 230,795 square feet to 328,853 square feet. The expansion would increase the total number of slot machines in the casino to 2,400. The tribe and the county negotiated the 2007 agreement to mitigate the significant off-reservation impacts which might result from the expansion, and the tribe also agreed to mitigate the additional demands on public safety and gambling addition treatment which might be caused by the additional gambling.

The $13 million to widen State Route 76 between Interstate 15 and Rosemary’s Mountain was paid to Granite Construction Company, which financed the widening of the highway as part of the Rosemary’s Mountain quarry project. The work included both widening and realignment of the highway. The tribe also provided partial funding of all-weather crossings on Pala Mission Road which were constructed by the County of San Diego.

The other measures will be financed by the Pala tribe prior to the expansion project. The $20 million for Highway 76 operational improvements between Rosemary’s Mountain and the casino will be paid to the California Department of Transportation for improvements to Highway 76 which will enhance safety and relieve congestion. The improvements will be determined by an agreement between the tribe and Caltrans and may include passing lanes, turnouts, shoulder widening, curve realignment, and intersection improvements, and the fair share contribution for the I-15/Highway 76 interchange will be part of the tribe’s agreement with Caltrans and the county. If the improvement cost exceeds $20 million the tribe will not be responsible for costs beyond that incurred by Caltrans. The 2007 intergovernmental agreement eliminated the tribe’s obligation to pay for those improvements if the tribe and Caltrans had not entered into an agreement by June 30, 2010.

The tribe has completed portions of its planned expansion but does not anticipate full completion of the casino expansion until 2015. Since the increased traffic associated with the expansion will not occur until then, the tribe and county staff recommended the extension of the agreement expiration date.

The $5 million for improvements along the casino frontage will cover approximately one mile of the road approaching the project as well as along the frontage. That area will cover from just east of Gomez Bridge to just west of Pala Bridge and may include an additional through lane in each direction, turn lanes, and a second signalized intersection for casino ingress and egress. Those improvements will be constructed prior to the expansion.

The 2007 agreement also requires the tribe to provide an adequate level of on-site security during all hours of operation. Upon expansion the tribe will contribute $200,000 annually for Sheriff’s Department services, $6,000 per year to the San Diego District Attorney Tribal Liaison project which works with the tribes to prosecute crime related to casino gambling, and $15,000 annually for the costs to process the additional criminal

prosecution caseload.

The agreement also called for the tribe to provide fire protection and emergency medical services through the Pala Fire Department and coordinate emergency response planning with the county, to cooperate in the development of a North County regional emergency response light air unit, and to enter into a contract with the county’s Office of Emergency Services for Hazardous Incident Response Team responses.

The tribe will also pay the county $150,000 per year for gambling addition treatment programs and enhance its existing responsible gaming programs to reflect the casino expansion.

To comment on this story online, visit


Reader Comments(0)