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Graton Rancheria could pay up to $38 million more in deal to offset Rohnert Park casino impacts

The tribe building a casino in Rohnert Park has agreed to pay at least $9 million annually to Sonoma County to offset the impacts of the project, plus up to $38 million more a year if its revenues hit projections.

The payments from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, some of which would start this year, are nearly four times what the county previously estimated it would get.

And they are separate from those laid out in a 2003 agreement between the tribe and Rohnert Park, under which the tribe is to pay the city about $200 million over 20 years.

"Without a doubt, I think it's the best agreement that's ever happened between a tribe and a local government," said Shirlee Zane, chairwoman of the county Board of Supervisors. She lauded the tribe for its participation.

"I think they've set a good role model for other tribal agreements in the future," she said. "The tribe has been continually trying to put their best foot forward in terms of negotiating and really giving back to the community."

The county in 2008 concluded that although it opposed the casino, it could not stop it, and reached a deal with the tribe to negotiate payments to address its impacts. Those negotiations led to the agreement announced Friday.

The casino, with a maximum of 3,000 slot machines, is projected to open next year. The tribe secured $850 million in financing in August.

Of the money the county would get, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sebastopol and Cotati would share $416,000 a year for law enforcement, and county fire districts would split $1 million.

Also the tribe is to make one-time payments totaling <NO1><NO>$5.1 million<NO1><NO>, mainly to address costs associated with public safety, traffic improvements and measures aimed at addressing the casino's anticipated impact on groundwater supplies.

An initial payment of $3.52 million is expected to come in January to cover public safety costs, including the hiring of four new sheriff's deputies.

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