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Pechanga Tribe Off the Hook for Road Improvements

The Pechanga Indian Tribe will not have to pay $10 million to fund a road project that would make easier traveling from the freeway, through Temecula, to its casino, a judge decided today.

The is off the hook for road improvements intended to ease access to its popular resort and casino on Pechanga Parkway, a federal judge decided today.

The City of Temecula and the tribe came to an agreement in April 2010 that would provide for the Pechanga Indians to pay about $2 million per year for 21 years  to the city, following an amended compact reached in 2008.

That compact allowed the tribe to add Las Vegas-style slot machines at the , on .

The tribe also agreed to pay $10 million for off-reservation improvements, according to a lawsuit filed by the city in April 2010. That money was to pay to mitigate the impacts of the daily traffic, the suit states.

The lawsuit was the city's way of getting money from the tribe to close a budget deficit, a tribal official said.

"As we have said all along, these funds are intended to mitigate reasonable off-reservation impacts, not solve city hall's budget deficit," said tribal spokesperson Jacob Mejia in a written statement.

"This absurd lawsuit shows poor judgment by the city's elected officials," he stated.

"The City Council has done a great disservice to the people of Temecula by jeopardizing this very generous offer of $2.5 million per year."

, attorney for the city, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The city last month asked a federal judge in U.S. District Court to disregard the tribe's motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the tribe waived its sovereign immunity against suits, among other reasons.

The two parties also disagree as to the facts of the agreement, with Temecula arguing that the tribe should prepare an impact report, per the compact reached in 2006 and voted in by residents in 2008.

The tribe has not prepared such a report, which should trigger the payments to the city.

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