re: proposed transmission lines Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Transmission line - Updates: 2002 . 2001: 01-04 , 05-09 .
• 2000: 01-04, 05, 06-07, 08-10, 11, 12..  1999 .
  WI Wisconsin's Rural Rebellion
Model Resolution on proposed Transmission Lines
re: hydroelectric power Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
Hydroelectric Dams - Updates: 2001, 2000: 01-03, 04-07, 1999

power lines

Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
--- --------------------------------------------------
Updates: 2000

January - March

Page Contents:

Manitoba Hydro is starting to respond to Americans

Sent to The Circle, Minneapolis-based native newspaper which covers native issues, in response to an article which has appeared in the January 2000 issue (still can be picked up at freebie newsstands around the TCities). All figures below are in Canadian dollars (US$1.00 = CN$1.44 at present). A reminder that PCN can respond to each and every point raised by Manitoba Hydro, and will do so in another email. But for now...

on Manitoba Hydro's letterhead
January 19, 2000

Joe Allen, Editor
The Circle

Dear Mr. Allen:

A recent article in The Circle implied that Minnesotans were enjoying electricity generated in Canada at the expense of the environment and the Cross Lake First Nation (also known as the Pimicikamak Cree Nation). Unfortunately, your readers did not get an accurate or complete story.

Manitoba Hydro projects, built more than 20 years ago, had an impact on the environment and the communities adjacent to some northern Manitoba waterways. But that impact does not approach the levels described in the story. Furthermore, we have taken significant action to address adverse environmental impacts and compensate the neighboring communities.

Before the hydro projects were completed, Canada, Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and the five First Nations that were affected, including the Cross Lake First Nation, signed the Northern Flood Agreement, which provides, among other things, compensation to the First Nations. Manitoba Hydro believes it is meeting and exceeding its obligations to address adverse effects from the hydro projects.

We continue to work with the Cross Lake Cree to implement the Northern Flood Agreement. Our disagreement with the community is an anomaly. We have successful, working implementation agreements with four of the five First Nations who are part of the Northern Flood Agreement. Those agreements have resulted in new land for each community and millions of dollars in compensation. It is important to recognize that the Cross lake First Nation does not speak for and does not represent the majority of Cree from northern Manitoba.

To date, Manitoba Hydro has spent more than $396 million in northern Manitoba to mitigate damage from the hydro projects. That includes more than $35 million in compensation to the Cross Lake First Nation.

While no Cross Lake reserve land was ever flooded, the projects did result in water level fluctuations and a reversal of seasonal water flows. Among the efforts we've undertaken in Cross Lake to mitigate the impact include construction of a $10 million weir in 1991 that minimizes fluctuations of water levels and brings the open water average levels to within one foot of pre-project levels. We built the community a 500-seat indoor ice arena to address concerns about the loss of recreation opportunities on Cross Lake.

We've also developed and funded natural resources programs that help the Cross Lake Cree continue with their traditions of hunting and fishing. Because of our efforts, and with the passage of time, Cross Lake, the land, wildlife and aquatic system have largely recovered. Your article specifically mentions the impact of methyl mercury on the environment. Methyl mercury has been found to be a temporary phenomenon in new northern Canadian reservoirs, and in some cases, mercury levels in fish reach levels whre commercial fishing is restricted and moderation recommended for local consumption There are currently no advisories regarding local consumption of fish from any of Manitoba Hydro's reservoirs and most species and sizes of fish now meet commercial requirements for mercury content. Methyl mercury was NEVER an issue at Cross Lake; residents have NEVER been advised to control or limit their consumptoin of fish for this reason and fish caught for commercial purposes have never been subject to restrictions on account of mercury.

Several years ago we were close to signing an implementation agreement with the previous leadership from the Cross Lake First Nation worth nearly $110 million. However, new leadership decided to reject the agreement because it didn't solve the community's pre-existing and unfortunate social problems, such as unemployment and poverty. Solving those long-standing issues is beyond our ability and beyond the scope of the Northern Flood Agreement.

Despite our differences, we remain committed to negotiating with the Cross Lake First Naiton in an attempt to find a solution. Our positive experiences with the other First Nations in northern Manitoba give us hope.

We are working with two of the First Nations on joint ventures to possibly develop new hydro projects. These projects will continue to play a key economic development role for Northern Manitoba and the First Nations involved. The new projects will have no impact on the Cross Lake First Nation.

Manitoba Hydro is a good neighbor; we are respectful of the environment and responsive to the communities in which we operate. Manitoba Hydro also is a dependable trading partner with Minnesota power suppliers, and plays a key role in meeting some of the electricity needs of residential and commercial users in Minnesota, providing, clean, low-cost renewable enrrgy.

It is important that your readers have an opportunity to learn the full story. If you'd likr more information on the Northern Flood Agreement or hydroelectricity projects in Northern Manitoba, please call our offices at 204-474-3535 (collect) or visit our Web site at

Yours truly,

Glenn P. Schneider
Manager, Public Affairs

PCN Cree presentation to Wisconsin Stewardship Network annual

Transmission Line Panel Discussion
Presentation by Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Cross Lake, Manitoba

Fifth Annual Conference (28-29 January 2000)
Wisconsin Stewardship Network
Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of Pimicikamak Cree Nation of Cross Lake in northern Manitoba.

The Pimicikamak Crees are a water and forest people who have lived in their traditional lands in northern Manitoba since time immemorial. These traditional lands are the sub-Arctic boreal forests, lakes and rivers southwest of Hudson's Bay.

Pimicikamak Cree elders tell their children and grandchildren that the Crees were placed in Nitaskinan -- "Our Land" -- to govern it, to benefit from its bounty of plants, fish, animals and birds, and to protect it from waste and destruction.

Since the late 1960's, the Crees have watched in anguish as the government of Manitoba and its state-owned utility, Manitoba Hydro, began to divert and dam the rivers in northern Manitoba, and flooded millions of acres of uplands and forests.

The Churchill River, which once flowed north and emptied into Hudson�s Bay, now flows south and into a man-made channel which diverts it into the Nelson River. It thus increases the flow in the Nelson River -- where Manitoba Hydro has built five generating stations. At the southern end of the system, one of Canada's largest lakes, Lake Winnipeg, is used as a reservoir into which water is trapped through spring, summer and fall. Then when the demand for electricity is high in the winter in Winnipeg and Minneapolis, the water is released into the Nelson.

In other words, now Manitoba Hydro and its American utility customers have gained the ability to turn the Nelson River on and off, no matter the time of day or season.

The ongoing shoreline erosion and riverbank slumping, downstream island erosion and lakeshores heaped with dead timber are all visible from the air, as far as the eye can see. The leader of one of Minnesota's prominent environmental organizations called it an �environmental sacrifice zone� when he flew over it last October.

This environmental sacrifice zone lies at the very heart of the Nelson River drainage basin, an area that reaches as far west as the Rockies, and encompasses portions of Montana, North and South Dakota and Minnesota. The Red River and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area lie within this drainage area.

The boreal forests in this drainage provide critical staging and feeding grounds for neotropical migrants which use the Mississippi Flyway. Unfortunately, because Manitoba Hydro never undertook comprehensive environmental assessments -- or, for that matter, social assessments -- no one knows how many species of animals, aquatic mammals, fish and flora and their habitats have disappeared or been severely affected. The Crees have observed that some animals have adapted. For example, there are some multi-level lodges constructed by beavers to accommodate the dramatic and frequent water fluctuations. However, every fall, the resident muskrat populations build winter dens, only to drown when the sudden, unseasonal water-level fluctuations flood them out.

And just as the animals have tried to adapt, so have the Pimicikamak Crees. However, it is difficult to adapt to the destruction of an entire environment when one lives at the epicenter of a sacrifice zone. Transport routes, traplines, food sources, traditional medicines, the Crees� universities of the wild � it is as though the area was suddenly bombed and destroyed. Where until the 1960's the Crees were self-sufficient and earned a good living from the waters and the land, now there is 85% unemployment and dependence on government handouts. In the last year, over 140 people attempted suicide, and seven died. Since the hydroproject began, dozens of Crees have perished because the land is now hazardous; hunters and fishermen sometimes have drowned when their outboard motors hit submerged debris or because of unstable ice covered with layers of slush; children diving into the water on hot summer days have been injured by underwater debris.

When the fragile vegetation and soils are flooded, the resulting shallow reservoirs emit the pernicious greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, that are major contributors to global warming. A 1999 study suggests such emissions may equal or exceed the emissions produced by thermal generation. Northern flooding also causes inert mercury stored in the soils and rock of the Canadian Shield to become methylated through a bacterial action. This poison works its way into the food chain, contaminating fish and aquatic mammals and ultimately, people.

The electricity that Manitoba Hydro and its American trading partners want to ship on the line being discussed tonight is not clean, self-renewing energy. Mega-hydroelectric projects like the Lake Winnipeg Regulation and Churchill River Diversion Project are not sustainable. The manipulation of water flowage in Pimicikamak Cree territory that replaced a thriving, multi-use environment with single-use electricity production, would be probably not be built in today's sophisticated world, and in an industry which is rapidly undergoing restructuring.

Yet Manitoba Hydro counts on its American partners to downplay the ecological and social consequences, which are, after all, far out of your sight and mind. You are told that this powerline is needed because of reliability. Is it more reliable to depend upon a vast, remote power plant whose invisible byproducts are the continuance of social and ecological devastation that would be totally unacceptable in Wisconsin? Wouldn't it be more reliable to manage your electricity demand to reduce the pressure on the Crees and their environment?

Pimicikamak Cree Nation believes that the Nelson River basin's remaining boreal forests are just as important to the health of this hemisphere as the rainforests of the Amazon, for both are important carbon sinks. Actually, the boreal forest is a larger ecosystem and carbon sink than the Amazon. This is, in part, why Pimicikamak Cree Nation has chosen to become the spokespeople for the Nelson River drainage basin. This is why they have become the environmental and human rights conscience that the governments of Manitoba and Canada do not have.

It is important that you become aware of the environmental and human rights impacts in Manitoba of the generation of electric power on Cree traditional lands. But there is a more important reason for my presence here as a member of this panel. There are significant impacts for the Midwest that will result from any decision to build transmission lines to carry large quantities of power from Manitoba.

When you buy energy from somewhere else, it is an alternative to generating that power at home. When you generate it at home, you employ American workers and use American materials to build, operate and maintain. Manitoba electricity may be a penny or so cheaper per kilowatt-hour than locally generated power. But it is important to consider that simply buying power at the border creates no jobs in Wisconsin, no economic spinoffs, no local benefits for your technology sector, your workforce, your communities.

If local wind farms produce power at a penny or two more per kilowatt-hour, this power is not more expensive than hydropower, it is cheaper! This is because that extra money gets spent here. Economists call this an economic multiplier.

In addition, locally produced electricity can be sited close to the demand. This can reduce the need to build huge networks of high-capacity transmission lines across Wisconsin�s wild lands, farmlands and residential areas.

In addition, the destruction of northern Manitoba�s migratory staging and breeding grounds has impacts for bird populations that are important to Wisconsin.

In addition, last April, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the highest human rights complaints entity of the U.N., issued a judgment concerning Canada�s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The UN Committee condemned Canada for its treatment of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, referring in particular to violations of the right not to be deprived of one�s means of subsistence. I bring this to your attention, because by remaining un-informed about the real purposes and human rights impacts of this powerline, your rights as Wisconsin citizens are affected.

There is time for the agencies charged with protecting Wisconsin�s public interests to fully investigate the domestic alternatives to encouraging more dependence upon Manitoba hydroelectric production that is highly disrespectful of the earth, the waters, the air, the animals -- and the indigenous people who are isolated from the centers of political power.

Thank you.

Ann Stewart
(Information Officer, Pimicikamak Cree Nation)
121 West Grant Street/Suite 116
Minneapolis MN 55403-2340 USA
p: 612.871.8404, e:, f: 612.871.7922

This material is distributed by Ann Stewart (USDOJ FARA #5313) on behalf of Pimicikamak Cree Nation. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington DC.

Sierra Club Takes Action
Against American Imports of Manitoba Canada Hydro Power

Toronto, Minneapolis and Madison, February 1, 2000 --
The International Committee of Sierra Club North America has taken a strong position against the continued environmental and human rights violations experienced by Pimicikamak Cree Indians in northern Manitoba, and caused in part by the hydro project that has devastated their lives, and the vast and critical environment on which they depend.

The Club's committee has written directly to the CEOs of Northern States Power, Minnesota Power, New Century Energies, and Manitoba Hydro, urging accountability and action from these utilities.

"The Sierra Club believes that Manitoba Hydro's hydroelectric megaproject has serious damaging effects on the northern Manitoba environment and on the indigenous people whose lands, cultures, economies and lives have been directly affected," said Richard Cellarius, chair of the International Committee. "We are in full support of the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples everywhere to speak out to protect their native environment."

"Hydroelectric development of this magnitude and type is not clean, benign or renewable: it devastates land, water, species and their habitats, and the people who live with this environment, and it often displaces truly renewable energy alternatives and conservation measures," Cellarius added.

The letters include a strong statement by Sierra Club on this issue:

"The Sierra Club urges American utilities to subject this hydroelectric power from Manitoba Hydro to state and federal environmental and social impact assessments. If such hydropower is assessed as harmful, the Sierra Club would urge American energy regulators to deem such hydropower unfit for American importation. The Sierra Club urges all utilities and governments to divert expenditures from this type of harmful hydropower to development and use of cleaner, renewable alternatives such as wind and solar power, and to conservation programs."

The 22-year-old hydro project known as the Lake Winnipeg Regulation and Churchill River Diversion Project has flooded or damaged more than 50,000 square miles of North American boreal forest and destroyed Pimicikamak Crees' traditional livelihood. Manitoba Hydro exports 40 percent of the electricity generated by the project to 35 American utilities. Northern States Power based in Minneapolis is the largest purchaser, while Minnesota Power in Duluth has a bulk power trading agreement with Manitoba Hydro. Later this year, NSP will merge with New Century Energies to become Xcel

Energy with offices in Denver and Minneapolis.

For more information, contact one of the following:
Sierra Club North Star Chapter (Minnesota): Anne Ostberg, 651-222-3461
Sierra Club John Muir Chapter (Wisconsin): Caryl Terrell, 608-256-0565
Sierra Club Canada: Kate Kempton, 416-691-7897
Pimicikamak Cree Nation: Ann Stewart, US Information Officer, 612-871-8404

GLIFWC backs Cree fight against dam

Watersmeet MI - 3 February: At the monthly board meeting of the Voigt Intertribal Task Force, a constituent committee of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, the task force unanimously passed a resolution affirming support for Wisconsin's Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

On 20 September, 1999, LCO became the first American tribe to officially state its concern for Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, linking that concern to LCO's own history of inundation (in 1923, Northern States Power built a dam which destroyed the tribe's way of life), and its opposition to a planned 345 kV transmission line that would pass across or near LCO traditional territory.

The September resolution also calls for "greatly increased investments by tribal, local, state and national governments, as well as by individuals and corporate and institutional entities, in energy conservation and genuinely renewable energy sources in Wisconsin and the uppper Midwest, to displace the 'need' to purchase additional environmental and socially destructive electricity from Manitoba Hydro." As well, the LCO resolution "strongly opposes the building of transmission lines in the territory ceded in the treaties of 1836, 1837 and 1842 where Lac Courte Oreilles people hunt, fish and gather for their subsistence."

Prior to the vote, Eric Robinson, Manitoba Minister, Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, and Oscar Lathlin, Manitoba Minister of Conservation, addressed the meeting. Both Crees, they acknowledged that hydrodevelopment has altered the way of life in the north; that the recently elected Manitoba government would be meeting with Pimicikamak Cree Nation "in the next little while to correct the wrongs"; and that the issues PCN has raised have been "outstanding issues" for a long time. The government's ministers told the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission they would issue a report card in eighteen months. They stated that the Manitoba government will appoint Aboriginal members to Manitoba Hydro's board of directors.

Michael Isham, Vice-Chairman of Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and Wayne LeBean, appointee to the Voigt Task Force from the Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake, reiterated tribal concerns about EMF and the high rates of cancer among Chippewa people, and the irony of having Manitoba shipping electricity to the proposed Crandon mine (owned by a Canadian subsidiary) that would in turn, destroy Wisconsin's Wolf River watershed and forever alter the Mole Lake community.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission resolution is as follows:

Whereas, The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) is an organization consisting of eleven federally recognized tribes from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin which have retained off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights in territories ceded to the United States in 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1854; and

Whereas, The Mission Statement of the Commission includes a duty to provide assistance to member tribes in the conservation and management of natural resources throughout the Great Lakes region thereby ensuring access to the traditional pursuits of the Chippewa people; and

Whereas, The Chippewa lifeway, as recognized and protected in by federal courts, depends upon clean and healthy natural resources for religious, medicinal, cultural, subsistence and economic purposes; and

Whereas, the Voigt Intertribal Task Force, a constituent committee of GLIFWC, develops natural resource management plans, assists its member tribes in developing suitable conservation regulations, and directs GLIFWC's programs with respect to territories ceded tot the United States in the 1837 and 1842 Treaties with the Chippewa; and

Whereas, a 345,000 volt transmission line is being proposed to bring power from hydroelectric dams in the Province of Manitoba through portions of the 1837 and 1842 ceded territories in Wisconsin; and

Whereas, the construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed transmission line poses threats to a variety of natural resources that tribes rely upon to sustain their lifeway; and

Whereas, a number of First Nations in the Province of Manitoba have been, and continue to be negatively impacted by the flooding of their lands for hydroelectric generation; and

Whereas, GLIFWC is a signatory to the Anishinaabe Akii Protocol, which recognizes the bonds of blood, clan, history, tradition, language and custom among the Anishinaabe Nation, and pledges that the signatories will work together to conserve all resources, including land, water and air; and

Whereas, the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa, a GLIFWC member tribe, has passed a resolution opposing the transmission line, a portion of which may cross its reservation, and has raised a number of significant concerns associated with the project.

Be It Therefore Resolved, that the Voigt Intertribal Task Force of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission does hereby go on record in support of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe's resolution opposing the transmission line and the reasons that underlie it.

Be It Further Resolved, that consistent with the spirit of the Anishinaabe Akii Protocol, the Voigt Intertribal Task Force of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission wishes to express its solidarity with the tribes of Manitoba that have been impacted by the flooding of their lands.
    For more information:
      LCO: Michael Isham, Vice-Chairman, 715-634-8934
      GLIFWC office, 715-682-6619
      PCN: Ann Stewart, US Information Officer, 612-871-8404
This material is produced and distributed by Ann Stewart (USDOJ FARA #5313) on behalf of Pimicikamak Cree Nation.

Stalemate dogs Hydro settlement
NOTE: all figs in Canadian dollars (trading at $1.44 give or take, right now)

Winnipeg Sun
February 10, 2000

It will take more than CAN$9 million in arena maintenance funding to repair damage done to Cross Lake First Nation by Manitoba Hydro, says Chief John Miswagon.

"The damage that has been done to the environment and our way of life is forever. Therefore we need something to replace what we lost on a long-term basis," he said.

On Tuesday an arbitrator ordered Manitoba Hydro to establish a $9.1 million trust fund for the band by March 10, with interest to be used for arena maintenance. The utility was ordered to build an arena and provide maintenance funding in 1982 under the Northern Flood Agreement (NFA). Money set aside recently ran out so the two sides agreed to establish a trust fund, said Hydro spokesman Glen Schneider.

They disagreed on the amount of the fund and the matter was sent to arbitration in October. Cross Lake wanted $27 million; Hydro offered $9.1 million. The $27 million included the cost of the arena, maintenance fees plus interest since 1982, said Miswagon.

The arena maintenance issue is only one of many issues still to be worked out between the two sides regarding the NFA, signed in 1977. The agreement requires Manitoba Hydro and the federal and provincial governments to help five bands affected by Lake Winnipeg regulation and the Churchill River Diversion Project.


Four bands accepted one-time payments, but a $100-million offer Cross Lake was ready to accept was thwarted after a new council was elected in 1997.

"They've indicated to us they don't really want to reach a settlement," Schneider said.

Miswagon said the band didn't want a 20-year agreement, but something that will last in perpetuity.

"I don't know what amount of money will make it an economically viable community, but it will take a heck of a lot more than $100 million," he said.

Hydro officials meet with members of Cross Lake twice a month to discuss the agreement. They continue to fund and support a number of programs in the community.

Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson said the provincial government will meet with Cross Lake's council in a few months to come up with a solution to the NFA stalemate.

February 10, 2000

Only ten days after its filing by Minnesota's State Senators Ellen Anderson, Jane Krentz and John Marty, Senate File 2453 is already picking up steam. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  1. Senator Krentz reports she's hearing from people about the bill...
  2. Pheasants Forever emailed information on the bill to its list...
  3. On 9 February, 21 faith-based activists applauded upon learning that the bill was filed...
  4. A Minneapolis ratepayer wrote the Senators, "Thank you for your support for the crucial issue of hydropower and the social and environmental responsibilities addressed by Senate File No. 2453"...
  5. Senator Marty informed a constituent: "I am pleased to co-author this legislation...".

The Hydro Review Bill Deserves YOUR Support

The bill requires that out-of-state hydroelectric facilities meet the same environmental reporting standards required of in-state facilities. It enables Minnesotans to make informed choices about the electricity they purchase for use in Minnesota.

What To Do

  1. Continue to thank the Senators for introducing this bill and express your support.

  2. Ask Senator Anderson (lead sponsor) to request a hearing during THIS YEAR'S legislative session which ends in April.

  3. Contact your own State Senator (and Representative) and ask them to support the bill.

  4. Ask your conservation organization, tribal government and faith community to endorse and support this crucial environmental legislation.

  5. Tell your friends in Minnesota...and please distribute this email.
Senator Ellen Anderson (DFL/St. Paul): 651-296-5537;
Senator Jane Krentz (DFL/May Township): 651-296-7061;
Senator John Marty (DFL/Roseville): 651-296-5645;


-- Ann Stewart

MPower's reply to Sierra Club's international committee
From: Ann Stewart

On 1 February, Sierra Club issued a press release stating that it had written to Northern States Power, Minnesota Power, Public Service Corporation of Wisconsin and Manitoba Hydro. Here is MP's response:

on Minnesota Power's letterhead ... to the chair of Sierra Club's international committee

February 1, 2000

Thank you for your thoughtful letter of January 5 expressing the Sierra Club's concerns about Manitoba Hydro's development of hydropower. In response to your request for an indication that Minnesota Power is making efforts to reduce the impact of U.S. electrical energy demand on Canada, rather than increasing it, I offer the following observations:

1. Since the 1970's Minnesota Power has promoted conservation, through both customer information programs and financial incentives, out of the conviction that conservation is of both immediate and long-range benefit to all concerned: utility, customers, the public and the environment. Our larger customers have been especially responsive to our conservation programs and we expect to continue these efforts. Unfortunately, residential customers have been less responsive in spite of our initiatives.

2. Minnesota Power, through the Electric Power Research Instittue and in other agreements with other electric utilities, is constantly seeking ways alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power can be made economically feasible. While progress is being made, thus far, they remain neither economically feasible nor practical. Furthermore, "Green Power" is not broadly desired.

3. To the extent that Minnesota Power's purchases affect the environment and people, you can be certain that a lack of low-cost, dependable electric power for our customers would have a great social impact on many people. The effects would initially be economic, but as becomes clearer every day, negative economic effects are merely the first step that eventually widens to include social and environmental degradation.

4. Man has been altering the face of North America for hundreds of years, and never without affecting the way people live. This is a fact of life. We must be aware of our actions and attempt to work cooperatively to do what we can to remedy and minimize the damage that results from them.

5. Although we recognize that our imports ultimately affect the environment of northern Manitoba and the region's native citizens (as do our imports from other provinces and states), your letter and accompanying Fact Sheet offer no substantive evidence that Manitoba Hydro would not have launched and would not continue its hydroelectric power development program without the prospect of selling energy to Minnesota Power. In the big picture, Minnesota Power imports very little hydropower from Manitoba. Conversely, we do provide energy to Manitoba, usually during the winter months.

Of the utilities named in your Fact Sheet, Minnesota Power is headquarteed in and serves the region with the most delicate environment and also the one with the highest concentration of native Americans, [sic] so we are quite knowledgeable of the concerns of the Sierra Club and The Sierra Club of/du Canada. You may be assured we will continue to do all we reasonably can to address those concerns where we think they are valid and consistent with our social and economic responsibilities to the constituents we serve.

In summary, Minnesota Power has no current plan to increase the amount of hydropower we import from Manitoba. We work hard to provide our customers with low cost energy, most of which comes from steam generation. Our concern for the environment and the implication of our policies to serve our customers responsibly is [sic] well documented.


    Edwin L. Russell [CEO]

Pimicikamak Cree US campaign is "Indian Power"
News from Indian Country, Hayward WI, mid-February 2000, p14A

A little under two years ago, Cree elders living on the impoverished reserve of Cross Lake, Manitoba - at the epicenter of an environmental sacrifice zone - decided it was time to tell their story to the American customers of Manitoba Hydro.

"We've chosen to become the environmental and human rigths conscience that the governments of Manitoba and Canada do not have," says Councillor Nelson Miller.

Another councillor, Kenny Miswagon, who has traveled several times to Minneapolis and St. Paul to talk to American audiences, adds, "We are the spokespeople for the Nelson River drainage area."

Since the late 1960s, Pimicikamak Cree Nation watched in anguish as the government of Manitoba and its state-owned utlity, Manitoba Hydro, began to divert and dam the rivers in northern Manitoba, and flooded milllions of acres of fragile boreal forests.

Today, when the demand for electricity is high in Minnesota, Manitoba Hydro turns the Nelson River on, no matter what time of day or season, to generate electricity from its fast-flowing water. It exports 40 percent of the output to the United States; Northern States Power (NSP), headquartered in Minneapolis purchases 90 percent of that output.

Last summer, NSP announced it needed an additional 1,200 megawatts of electricity to meet Minnesota's growing demand. It is in negotiations with Manitoba Hydro; a new contract may be signed as early as April 2000.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Power and Public Service Corporation of Wisconsin have announced plans to construct a 260-mile, 345 kilovolt transmission line to ship Manitoba hydroelectricity through the two states to meet some of Wisconsin's demand, but also to sell to Chicago.

One of the proposed transmission routes would cross Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe land in northwest Wisconsin. LCO's tribal council passed a resolution in September 1999, opposing the powerline. LCO was the first tribe in the United States to officially declare support for the Pimicikamak Crees. Sixty years ago, NSP built a dam and reservoir on the LCO reservation, and tribal members say they are still recovering from the cultural and psychological displacement.

"Indian power is human rights," says Ann Stewart, an information officer hired by the Pimicikamak Crees to help them tell their story. "It's the power of a people who insist that the development of an equitable energy policy in the Midwest must include the recognition that at one end of the transmission line there are people and an environment who continue to suffer because of American demand."

The Wolf Watershed Educational Project, a coalition of Wisconsin Native Americans, fishermen, farmers and environmentalists who are fighting to save the Wolf River from a sulfide mining operation, agrees.

Their resolution passed at Menominee Nation, Keshena, on January 15, states, " every step of the way, from the hydroelectric dams, to the transmission line, to the Crandon mine - this power project has demonstrated disregard for the rights of land-based peoples, including farmers and indigenous peoples, to continue living on and gaining sustenance form their local environment."

The Voigt Intertribal Task Force of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, unanimously passed a resolution February 3 opposing "the transmission line and the reasons that underlie it."

Michael Isham, LCO Vice-Chairman, and Wayne LeBrun, Sokaogon Chippewa of Mole Lake, spoke of the irony of Manitoba Hydro destroying the Pimicikamak Cree homeland to ship electricity to the proposed Crandon mine (owned by a Canadian subsidiary) that would in turn, destroy Wisconsin's Wolf River watershed and forever alter the Mole Lake community.

At the request of concerned Minnesotans, in the first week of February a bill was introduced in the Minnesota Senate to require that all out-of-state hydroelectric facilities meet the same environmental reporting requirements as in-state facilities. The hydro review bill (Senate File #2453) was introduced by State Senators Ellen Anderson, Jane Krentz and John Marty.

Minnesotans can express support of the bill by telling friends, conservation organizations, tribal governments and faith communities about the hydro review bill and ask them to express support to:

Senator Ellen Anderson (DFL/St. Paul) at 651-296-5537;

Activists are now gearing up for a public hearing in Duluth in early March, followed by summer hearings on the line's proposed route in Wisconsin. And Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission is receiving letters and email from Minnesota ratepayers who oppose new contracts with Manitoba Hydro.
    accompanied by photo, captioned: Sandy Beardy, 79-year-old Pimicikamak Cree elder, no longer wears the medals of honor Canada awarded him for his service in WWII, because of the damage Manitoba Hydro has done to his people.

More Good News from the MN State Legislature

From: Ann Stewart
February 18, 2000

House File 3499, known by its co-sponsors as the hydropower purchase bill, has just been filed by Representatives Carlos Mariani (chief sponsor, DFL/St. Paul; 651-296-9714;, Jean Wagenius (DFL/Minneapolis), Alice Hausman (DFL/St. Paul), Karen Clark (DFL/Minneapolis) and Phyllis Kahn (DFL/Minneapolis).

On February 1, Minneapolis State Senators Ellen Anderson, Jane Krentz and John Marty had filed SF 2453, the hydro review bill.

The bill would level the informational playing field by requiring that out-of-state hydroelectric facilities submit the same environmental information now required of in-state facilities.


1. Please contact State Senator Bob Lessard's office (651-296-1113) and ask him to hold a hearing on SENATE File 2453 before the end of this year's short session.

2. As for the companion House bill, please contact Rep. Dennis Ozent (R/Rosemount) and ask that his House Environment and Natural Resources POLICY Committee hold a hearing on HF 3499 before the end of this year's short session.

3. Reminder: please communicate your objections to more contracts between Manitoba Hydro and Northern States Power...the first comment period ends at 430pm Wednesday, February 23. Send comments to MN Public Utilities Commission, 121 Seventh Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul 55101-2147.

Thank you one and all for your continuing and important work on behalf of human rights and C.R. E. E. (conservation, responsibility and energy efficiency) throughout the bioregion.

Regards,    Ann Stewart

Cross Lake Chief John Miswagon

We won't be beaten up in silence The struggle in northern Manitoba is about more than $300-million, says Cree chief John Miswagon
-- it's about justice

Comment, The Globe and Mail. 6 March 2000, p.A11

Thirty years ago, without our consent and against our wishes, Manitoba Hydro came to our traditional lands around Cross Lake, north of Lake Winnipeg. Hydro and the government of Manitoba proceeded to dam and divert our rivers and flood vast areas of lakes and boreal forest. Incredibly, they also came to conscript Lake Winnipeg as a reservoir, a vast storage battery, to hold back water in the summer and release surges down the Nelson River to generate power in the winter.

We are a hunting and fishing people. For this reason, Hydro's megaproject has been a nightmare for our people. Within just a few years of Hydro's arrival, our environment and our traditional economies lay in ruins. Solemn promises made by Canada, Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro in a written Charter of Rights and Benefits -- of replacement lands, community infrastructure and social development -- have never been kept. Instead, our people endure mass poverty and unemployment, Third World living conditions and an epidemic of suicide. There have been more than 140 attempts in the last year, and seven deaths. Meanwhile, Hydro and the governments extract billions of dollars of resources in our back yard.

For 25 years we have tried to tend to our collective wounds and adjust to environmental, social, economic and cultural shock. Only now are our people emerging from despair. We are surveying the state of our environment, of our nation, and of our rights in law and nature. We have resolved that we will no longer go quietly down a path of cultural and political extinction. This is why we have now launched an international campaign to tell our story to the world.

Yet Manitoba Hydro is hotly contesting what is referred to as our "claims" about the impacts of its hydro-electric megaprojects on our lands and our lives. A company spokesman accuses us of a "broad strategy to embarrass the utility."

There is much for Hydro and the governments to be embarrassed about. Shoreline erosion is continuous; sometimes burial grounds become exposed, leaving skulls and bones sticking out of the mud. The graves of my family's ancestors are now under water. It's indisputable that millions of acres have been flooded and despoiled and boreal lands rendered inaccessible. Also indisputable are the thousands of miles of devastated shorelines, the mercury contamination, and at the least 50 lives we have lost; many trappers and fishermen have been killed because the territory they once knew intimately is now hazardous (Manitoba Hydro has been found legally liable in several cases).

These facts led Mr. Justice Patrick Ferg to rule in 1982 that Hydro's project "drastically altered" our society and environment and "almost turned the [river] system upside down from a state of nature"; these facts led the 1991 Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Inquiry to characterize Hydro's project as a vast assault on the Manitoba environment with concomitant social impacts on Aboriginal peoples. And these facts led a 1999 Inter-Church Inquiry to state that our lands and people have been subjected to "an ecological and moral catastrophe."

Most recently, the Sierra Club of North America, after viewing the megaproject first-hand, concluded that "hydro-electric development of this magnitude and type is not clean, benign or renewable: It devastates land, water, species and their habitats, and the people who live with this environment, and it often displaces truly renewable energy alternatives and conservation measures." The Sierrans urged "all [American] utilities to divert expenditures from this type of harmful hydro power to development and use of cleaner, renewable alternatives such as wind and solar power, and to conservation programs."

The United Nations has recently -- again -- found Canada to be in violation of its international human-rights obligations, particularly with respect to depriving our people of our rights to self-determination, our rights to not be deprived of our own means of subsistence, and to our natural wealth and resources, under Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Our people's experience is a case study of dispossession.

And now we hear that Manitoba Hydro has announced plans to double its hydro-electric capacity and its exports, already in excess of $300-million. The company tells the public that we are simply seeking to raise some compensation. It is also said that we are calling for a "boycott" of Manitoba Hydro power by U.S. citizens. But we are only telling them our story.

We state: This is a fundamental misapprehension of our people's rights and aspirations, of which we have directly informed the corporation many times. Our struggle is for survival, dignity, a sustainable and healthy environment, inclusion in the benefits of the Canadian economy, and respect for our rights.

Compensation money is a corrosive last resort where mitigation, remediation and economic and social development are impossible. Sadly, the truly beneficial options available to Hydro and the governments have never been tried.

The utility should stop attempting to minimize our rights, and instead begin to address the devastating impacts of its activities on our environment and our lives. This will include developing a vision of boreal Manitoba as a multi-user environment, in which indigenous peoples, rivers, lakes, shorelines, flora and fauna are no longer sacrificed to mega-development and electricity exports.

Our people have decided that they will no longer be beaten up in silence. We will tell our story and assert our rights -- in churches, universities, human-rights forums, energy-regulatory agencies, and financial markets in Canada and elsewhere. That includes places where Manitoba Hydro sells electricity and bonds. If this causes U.S. electricity consumers to decline to buy power that is generated through the sacrifice of Cree lives and an entire environment, so be it. We know that the Americans have other energy options that are genuinely renewable, sustainable, equitable, and consistent with morality. When Hydro and the Crown come to respect our Aboriginal, treaty and other human rights, then that is the story we will tell.

Hydro and the governments of Manitoba and Canada are parties to our 1977 treaty, the Northern Flood Agreement. We are trying to get them to make this ongoing treaty relationship work. But the defence of our environment and our human rights is not a bargaining chip. Our elders remind us that we Ininiwak were put here by the Creator to look after Nitaskinan and the boreal environment of which it is part. We have decided to be the environmental and human-rights conscience that Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba and Canada do not have.

We will now do so.

John Miswagon was elected chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake, Man., in September of 1999.

A good neighbor

[Background: The Circle, a monthly publication which covers Native American issues, published an article by reporter Eli Johnson about Cross Lake in its January 2000 issue. Below is Manitoba Hydro's response which was printed in February, followed by two letters in the March issue now on the stands.]

A good neighbor

A recent article in The Circle implied that Minnesotans were enjoying electricity generated in Canada at the expense of the environment and the Cross Lake First Nation. Unfortunately your readers did not get an accurate or complete story.

Manitoba Hydro projects, built more than 20 years ago, had an impact on the environment and the communities adjacent to some northern Manitoba waterways. But that impact does not approach the levels described in the story. Furthermore we have taken significant action to address adverse environmental impacts and compensate the neighboring communities. We continue to work with the Cross Lake Cree to implement the Northern Flood Agreement, which provides, among other things, compensation to the First Nations. Our disagreement with that community is an anomaly. We have successful working implementation agreements with four of the five First Nations who are part of the Northern Flood Agreement.

Several years ago we were close to signing an implementation agreement with the previous leadership from the Cross Lake First Nation worth nearly $110 million. However, new leadership decided to reject the agreement because it didn't solve the community's pre-existing and unfortunate social problems, such as unemployment and poverty. Solving those long-standing issues is beyond our ability and beyond the scope of the Northern Flood Agreement.

We've also developed and funded natural resources programs that help the Cross Lake Cree continue with their traditions of hunting and fishing.

Methyl mercury was never an issue at Cross Lake; residents have never been advised to control or limit their consumption of fish for this reason.

Despite our differences, we remain committed to negotiating with the Cross Lake First Nation in an attempt to find a solution. For more information please call our offices at 204-474-3535 (collect) or visit our Web site at

        Yours truly,
        Glenn P. Schneider
        Manager, Public Affairs, Manitoba Hydro

[March 2000]

Manitoba Hydro project called a "moral and ecological catastrophe"

Glenn Schneider, manager of Public Affairs for Manitoba Hydro, misses the point in a letter to the editor in February's Circle.

Manitoba Hydro, a fully state-owned utility, sells electricity to Minnesotans from a hydroelectric project it constructed 20-odd years ago in a fragile sub-Arctic environment. The cheap electricity it sells to Minnesotans comes at a very high cost: the ecological damage to a North American boreal forest and river system; the economic, social and psychological damage to Cree Indians whose hunting and fishing way of life and cultural landmarks have been destroyed by flooding; and the undercutting of Minnesota's innovative environmentalists who have worked for years to convince their utilities, legislators and public utilities commissioners that it's better and cheaper in the long run, to invest in efficiency, wind power, solar power and gas-fired cogeneration in the Midwest.

The self-serving protestations by Manitoba Hydro that it is a "good neighbor," that it is improving/conserving the environment, and that it is benefiting / protecting the rights of Manitoba's indigenous peoples by paying sums of compensation simply do not ring true. More credible is the 1999 finding by a church-sponsored Canadian inquiry that Manitoba Hydro's project is a "moral and ecological catastrophe." Sadly, this catastrophe is one in which all Minnesotans have been made complicit.

        Ann Stewart
        US Information Officer, Minneapolis
        Pimicikamak Cree Nation

Minnesotans complicit in destruction of Cree lands

I would like to thank Eli Johnson for persuasively exposing me to the crucial issues of hydropower and the environmental and social costs of NSP's power purchases form Manitoba Hydro ("Trail of NSP's hydro power leads to destruction in Cree country" Jan. 2000). Clearly, nature has bestowed what has historically been Cree land with an enormous hydrological energy potential in northern Manitoba. Needless to say, in a spiritual as well as material sense, this Indian land, which includes its rivers, was always a form of Native wealth. Ironically, this wealth has recently generated the Crees' social and spiritual poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others.

And these "open veins" -- to use Eduardo Galeano's metaphor -- link me and every other Minnesotan to not only the destruction of Cree lands, but also to the alcoholism, domestic violence and suicides that Native elders attribute to this destruction. Perhaps it's arguable, moreover, that Minnesotans are complicit in yet another holocaust, for, in substance, it seems like the Corss Lake Crees have been assigned the status of "expendable."

When confronted with the history of North American Indian policy, many of us European-Americans submit this retort: "I refuse to take responsibility for the sins of my ancestors. I have never harmed any Indians, and I will only take responsibility for those things that I can control." Fair enough.

What is happening to the Pimicikamak Crees, however, is happening now -- not in 1492, 1862 or 1890. Therefore, as a non-Indian, this time I cannot blame my ancestors. If I sit idly by while the Cross Lake Crees struggle to fight off greater manipulation of the Nelson Rriver, if I let it happen this time, the blood is on my hands. And the hands of every other Minnesotan who chooses to look the other way.

        Kevin Sands O'Brien
        (Irish/German/English American)

Eleven more US tribes support Pimicikamak Cree Nation
Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. Opposes Minnesota-Wisconsin Powerline

Lac du Flambeau, WI, March 15 - Eleven more American Indian tribes are now on record against a 260-mile powerline planned for northern Wisconsin. The line which would originate just outside of Duluth and terminate in Wausau, would cross Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa territory. Wisconsin's mining activists fear the line is also being built to bring power to the proposed Crandon copper sulfide mine near the Mole Lake Chippewa reservation. The line is being constructed to ship cheap electricity generated by a northern Manitoba mega-hydroelectric project which is devastating traditional Pimicikamak Cree Indian land.

The resolution states that GLITC, Inc. "strongly opposes the construction of transmission lines anywhere in Wisconsin that will result in more harm to Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Chippewa ceded territories in Wisconsin and Minnesota." GLITC, Inc. supports greatly increased investments by tribal, local, state and national governments, individuals, and corporate and institutional entities in energy conservation and renewable energy resources in the upper Midwest, to displace the need to purchase more electricity from Manitoba Hydro.

In September 1999, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Hayward WI) became the first American tribe to support for Pimicikamak Cree Nation, and in February 2000, the Great Lakes Intertribal Fish and Wildlife Commission affirmed its opposition to the powerline on Chippewa ceded territory.

For more information: GLITC, Inc.: 715-588-3324; Pimicikamak Cree Nation: 612-871-8404

Minnesotans demand environmental accountability from Manitoba Hydro
News from Indian Country, Hayward WI, mid-March 2000, p10A

Cross Lake, Manitoba (ICC) -- Northern States Power is the largest American purchaser of electricity generated by the five dams and reservoirs built on the Nelson River in northern Manitoba. One of these dams is ten miles from Cross Lake, home of Pimicikamak Cree Nation. The massive hydroproject was built by Manitoba Hydro, a state-owned utility in Canada.

"We suffer from the upstream impacts as well as the downstream impacts," said Councillor Kenny Miswaggon in a phone interview. "Flooding the land to create the reservoirs caused methylmercury pollution. The water released from Lake Winnipeg upstream into our Nelson River powers the turbines, but at the same time the force of the water and its fluctuations cause devastating erosion."

Flooding the land to create reservoirs destroyed the Cree way of life, one which was based on hunting, fishing and trapping. Adults who once sustained their families today have little or nothing to do, and the community's unemployment rate is estimated at 85-90 percent. "Our youth want to come back after graduation," said Coucillor Miswaggon, who is thirty years old. "As an elected official, what can I promise them?"

In Minnesota, eight state legislators are sponsors of the Hydro Review Bill, filed last month. The legislation requires that out-of-state hydroelectric facilities submit the same environmental assessment information now expected of in-state facilities.

"Non-Minnesota utilities would no longer be exempt form revealing the true impacts of their operation," said Diane Peterson, a grassroots energy activist who supports the bill's passage. "We need to see impact assessments to determine whether Minnesota is participating in avoidable environmental destruction when it buys hydroelectricity produced beyond our borders."

She asks, "What's the point of preserving habitats and species in Minnesota if we're going to turn a blind eye to what's happening in the north?"

Manitoba Hydro is one of Northern States Power's preferred suppliers to sell more electricity to Minnesota. Activists have begun a letter-writing campaign to the Public Utilities Commission, objecting to more damaging imports from Canada.

"Despite strenuous objections, NSP finally built 400 megawatts of windpower in southwest Minnesota and there's enough wind to deliver another 800 megawatts. It proves that our utilities can find alternatives to mega-hydro," commented an astute observer. "You've got to hand it to the grassroots. They're doing their homework and they're not afraid to challenge the powers that be."

North American Water Office in Lake Elmo, a grassoots-based group with years of experience supporting better energy choices, has joined with the environmental studies program at the University of St. Thomas to present a conference on Saturday, April 15. "The purpose is to get more people talking and to learn about the human and environmental impacts of large, central-station generation," said George Crocker, NAWO's executive director.

Crocker expects a large contingent of activists to attend the event at the new downtown Minneapolis campus of St. Thomas. "We've been working with Wisconsin activists, and the LCO and Mole Lake tribes to block a 260-mile transmission line from Duluth to Wausau that would ship cheap coal and hydro electricity through Minnesota and Wisconsin," Crocker said.

"We need to discuss in detail what kind of energy policy and choices we all want for the Midwest."

For more information:
North American Water Office: 651-770-3861;
For more information about Pimicikamak Cree Nation: 612-871-8404;

Hydro's dam plans generate excitement
Crown utility welcomes first nation to negotiations
Doug Nairne, Winnipeg Free Press, 23 March 2000

AFTER NEARLY a decade without putting a spade into the northern dirt, Manitoba Hydro is drawing up plans to get back into the dam-building business.

And this time, the utility, the provincial government and the aboriginal people who have suffered the ill effects of past megaprojects all vow that things will be different.

Manitoba Hydro president Bob Brennan said the Crown corporation is considering three proposals, any one of which could see construction start sometime in the next six to eight years. Two of the plans involve generating electricity with relatively small dams on the Burntwood River. The third option, a 600-megawatt dam on the Nelson River near Split Lake, seems to be the front-runner.

Brennan said dams are massive undertakings involving billions of dollars, thousands of jobs and years of planning, so it is prudent management to be looking toward the next decade.

"We are certainly looking at the opportunities that may be there for building dams and exporting power," he said. "It's all very preliminary right now, but we need to plan ahead."

Just talk of Manitoba Hydro megaprojects is enough to get a lot of people's attention.

The utility is still dealing with the fallout from flooding and pollution complaints from projects completed more than a decade ago. One community -- Cross Lake -- is to this day working to discourage potential buyers of Manitoba power.

The proposed Gull Rapids dam on the Nelson River would be built about 60 kilometres downstream from the community of Split Lake, and people there are already talking to Manitoba Hydro about how the project could affect them.

Chief Norman Flett said the seductive prospect of jobs and economic strength for the community of 2,000 is a powerful motivator to work with Manitoba Hydro rather than against the utility.

"We won't allow this project to proceed unless our concerns are met, and we've made our position clear," he said.

Flett says there seems to be a new era of relations between aboriginal communities and Manitoba Hydro.

"There are things being discussed that Hydro and the government would never even have considered even a year ago," he said.

Flett said that what had been taboo issues like revenue sharing and partnership in the dam are now being discussed. He credited the NDP government for the change in attitude, but said that relations were improving even under the Tories.

About 60 per cent of the people in Split Lake are younger than 25, unemployment is high and there is a housing shortage. Flett said a steady stream of revenue from the dam and more jobs would help make his community the envy of other first nations.

The dilemma facing the government is that not many customers are willing to sign a long-term power deal. Without a deal, there is a reluctance to undertake a massive construction project that could run into the billions of dollars.

Megaproject mothballed

Premier Gary Doer said unless Manitoba Hydro lands a major contract, it is unlikely the $5.7-billion Conawapa generating station and transmission line will be resurrected. The megaproject was mothballed when Ontario cancelled a 1,000-megawatt-a-year contract in 1991.

The utility estimates it would have to borrow $6 billion to get it going. The interest payments alone would amount to almost $500 million a year.

But the smaller projects, like Gull Rapids, are a more likely possibility, Doer said.

Manitoba Hydro also recently announced it will build a $180-million gas turbine power generator in Brandon. It will have the capacity to produce 225 megawatts of electricity as a back-up power source when water at hydroelectric dams runs low.

And although construction is years away, the dirt is already flying south of the border.

The U.S.-based Sierra Club is lobbying the Minnesota government to pull the plug on hydroelectric contracts with Manitoba.

On its Web site, the organization claims Manitoba Hydro is "destroying 32 million acres of boreal forest and devastating the lives of 12,000 Cree aboriginal people. And the problem is about to get worse," it warns.

But Flett said problems should be worked out because all parties are working together this time.

"We're looking for a way to make these things happen."

� 2000 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trip to Canada's Third World backyard holds lessons for students

This article appeared in the University of Winnipeg campus newspaper.

The Uniter 23 March 2000 p.5 Features
by Robin Neustaeter

In mid February, a delegation of 10 University of Winnipeg students followed the hydroelectric transmission line north into Canada's Third World backyard. They went to find out what lies at the other end of the wires connected to their southern light switches. After 530 km pavement, gravel and winter road, the students found themselves welcomed to the territory of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation (PCN) at Cross Lake.

Interest in issues related to PCN and the effects of northern hydro development has been rapidly growing at the University over the past year. After hearing PCN leader tell university audiences of the social and environmental destructiveness of hydro dams, students - many of whom have studies and followed it for some time decided they wanted first-hand exposure to the issue. Approximately 4300 PCN citizens live on the shores of Cross Lake and the Nelson River in the remote boreal environment. On the surface, the students saw snow covered northern wonderland, yet they heard first hand of PCN's high-voltage battle with governments and Manitoba Hydro that lurks deceptively under the snow.

The students were told of the "environmental sacrifice" and "ecological catastrophe" resulting from the Churchill-Nelson River Hydro Project and the Jenpeg Dam, 19 km upstream from the community.

Built in the early seventies, Jenpeg regulates the levels of Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River, which, after flowing through 5 dams empties into Hudson Bay. This re-creation of the northern environment allows for the provincial utility to hold back the waters of Lake Winnipeg during summer when water flow is high, for release through the Nelson River power corridor in winter when power demand is high.

In this way, Lake Winnipeg acts as a battery for the province, and Jenpeg is the switch that turns it on and off to meet the needs of comfortable southern customers. The project causes a reversal of seasonal highs and lows in water levels on the Nelson, unnatural water fluctuations, and destructive destabilization of the northern ecosystem.

Commenting on the imposition by mega-development in his people's backyard, Cross Lake resident Jackson Osborne said "the mighty Nelson River has a boss now and that boss is Jenpeg, the big cement block."

Illustrating the ecological inappropriateness of a massive concrete structure in a once pristine river, Osborne said "beavers don't build cement blocks... the beavers have it rough now." The once harmonious natural balances are now under the concrete dictatorship of Manitoba's public utility.

Looking over his lands and waters during a community tour Osborne, who is a PCN employee, lamented the loss in quality of life that the environmental destruction has brought about.

"This used to be beautiful," he said.

In 1977, governments and Manitoba Hydro signed the Northern Flood Agreement (NFA) with Cree people affected by the dams (Cross Lake included). The NFA states that affected people will be "dealt with fairly and equitably", toward "the continued viability of the communities", for the lifetime of the project."

"We will no longer beg on hands and knees... We will no longer be beaten up in silence," the PCN declared two years ago.

Since then, they have launched a massive international education campaign for both implementation of the NFA and a balanced distribution of benefits reaped off their territory.

Reflecting on the continuing struggle for the survival of his people, Osborne states "This is the real thing folks, this is not a John Wayne movie."

The weekend visit included a tour of the community and meetings with members of the PCN Youth Council, the PCN Executive Council, traditional healer Bobby Brightnose and the suicide crisis line workers. Students also toured Jenpeg Generating Station and viewed video footage of the extensive and dramatic environmental disruption on PCN lands by the mega-development.

This is not the end for the students. Inspired to address energy inequity from the consumer end, a group of students (members of the delegation and others) continues to meet to develop and implement strategies for addressing the governments and Manitoba Hydro on these issues.

If you would like to become involved with a group concerned with Cross Lake, please email Robin Neustaeter at

(Photo caption 1: The effects of hydro dams on fragile boreal shoreline on Cross Lake land. Erosion is expected to continue for 200-300 years before shorelines restabilize. Photo caption 2: A sign at the Jenpeg generating station warns people of the unpredictable levels of the Nelson River.)

Manitoba Hydro Declares US Energy Export Reliability Information Secret:
Refuses Manitoba Cree Indians' Freedom of Information Request

Cross Lake, Manitoba, March 29 -- Canadian provincial utility Manitoba Hydro has formally refused to provide Pimicikamak Cree Nation (PCN) and its energy experts the data required to determine the utility's reliability in supplying export electricity to the Minnesota energy market. The Cree Indians had filed a request, under Manitoba's Freedom of Information Act, for the utility's studies of reliability. This issue is critical for Minnesotans whose utility, Northern States Power (NSP), is considering increasing its dependence on Manitoba power.

"We can only conclude that Manitoba Hydro has news that it is hiding from us, from Manitobans, and from Minnesotans," said John Miswagon, Chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation of Cross Lake, Manitoba. "Are Hydro's promises of reliability false? Until Hydro releases its reliability studies, we can only assume the worst."

"Manitoba Hydro's exports are like a house of cards. Americans depend on Manitoba Hydro for firm energy and Manitoba Hydro depends on the US for replacement power," said Ann Stewart, PCN's US Information Officer. "It seems that if a temperature spike and a drought occurred at the same time, the Twin Cities may be looking at brownouts."

Preliminary studies by PCN indicate that Manitoba Hydro may encounter substantial difficulties in honoring its contractual commitments with its largest American utility customer, NSP. Detailed comments filed last month by the Pimicikamak Crees at Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission (PUC) indicate that the risk may be high.

However, in the face of Manitoba Hydro's decision to declare its reliability studies secret, it is impossible to determine. Such a secrecy move would not occur in the US regulatory context.

Shortly after Pimicikamak Cree Nation submitted its comments, Manitoba Hydro suddenly announced plans to install 225 MW of gas-fired turbine backup at its thermal plant in Brandon to improve reliability during low-flow conditions. "This is a clear indication that Manitoba Hydro is aware of its possible inability to fulfill future contractual obligations with NSP," said Robert McCullough, President of McCullough Research in Portland, Oregon, an energy expert hired by Pimicikamak Cree Nation. McCullough Research has expertise in both Pacific Northwest and Quebec hydro operations.

"Manitoba Hydro represents itself as a supplier of clean, renewable hydropower. In fact, what it's actually delivering will be an unreliable mix of electricity generated from coal, gas and environmentally damaging mega-hydro," said Ian Goodman, President of The Goodman Group in Berkeley, California, the Crees' other US energy experts.

"We suggest that Minnesotans examine these critical issues closely because Manitoba Hydro may have cozily misrepresented itself to NSP, its biggest American customer -- but ultimately to Minnesotans," said Miswagon.

Northern States Power petitioned the PUC in 1999 for review of its "all-source request" for proposals for up to 1200 megawatts of electricity. It is expected that NSP will soon forward its short list of favored bidders to the PUC, and this list may include Manitoba Hydro. New contracts to supply base load and peaking generation are expected to be signed in April.

Further information:
Robert McCullough - Portland, Oregon: 503-771-5090
Ian Goodman - Berkeley, California: 510-841-1200
Ann Stewart - Minneapolis, Minnesota: 612-871-8404

Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Transmission line - Updates: 2002 . 2001, 01-04 , 05-09 .
• 2000: 01-04, 05, 06-07, 08-10, 11, 12 . 1999 .
Wisconsin's Rural RebellionModel Resolution on proposed Transmission Lines
Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
Hydroelectric Dams - Updates: 2001, 2000: 01-03, 04-07 . 1999 .
Midwest Treaty Network Contents