Tribe seeks trust status for land near Lake Elmo

An American Indian community is seeking federal trust status for land near Lake Elmo, raising the possibility the tribe could be planning to develop the land.

The Prairie Island Indian Community is seeking trust status for 112 acres it purchased in West Lakeland Township along Interstate 94, The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Friday. The designation could lead to Indian-built businesses unaffected by local zoning and tax laws.

Tribal spokeswoman Stacey Rammer said in an email to the newspaper that the tribe doesn't have any immediate or definite development plans for the land.

The tribe already owns The Treasure Island Resort and Casino on Indian land near Red Wing, but tribal leaders said that area is under constant threat of contamination from the Prairie Island nuclear power plant. The facility stores its spent fuel rods near the land. The tribe purchased the West Lakeland Township acres to get away from the facility, according to a news release.

"We must prepare for the likelihood that nuclear waste will never leave our ancestral homeland," Shelley Buck, tribal council president, said in the release.

Much of the Treasure Island casino's land lies in a flood plain, creating another reason to move, Buck said.

West Lakeland Township Supervisor Dave Shultz said acquiring federal trust status could take as long as two years. State and federal officials then would have to approve any gambling license, which could take additional years.

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