Pages: Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Transmission line - Updates: 2001.
2000: Jan.-May, June-July, Aug.- Oct., Nov.-Dec.. 1999
Wisconsin's Rural Rebellion
Model Resolution on proposed Transmission Lines
Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
Hydroelectric Dams - Updates: 2001. 2000: Jan.-Mar., Apr.-July,
Aug.- Dec.. 1999

power lines

Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
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Updates: 2000

August - Dec.

Page Contents:

Minnesota: this is YOUR wakeup call

In the 1980s, a handful of rural activists DEFEATED a proposed transmission line from Quebec that would have devastated western Maine's remote mountain communities.

Because there were alternatives.

IN THE 1990s, a larger handful of activists in New York joined forces with activists throughout the US and DEFEATED a 1000 MW, 20-year contract that would have destroyed the Great Whale River, one of eastern North America's remaining wild rivers, in the name of "cheap" megahydro.

Because there were alternatives.

TODAY, Minnesota, your largest utility has made public its intent to AGAIN MAKE YOU COMPLICIT in northern destruction with its announcement that Manitoba Hydro is a finalist in NSP's energy supplier contest.

Read NSP's press release for yourselves at or


THEN UNPLUG MINNESOTA FROM MANITOBA HYDRO -- out of love for the rivers and animals of the north and the preservation of the wild -- out of concern for the Cree Indians and their families who live like refugees in an environmental slum -- out of the deep knowledge that surpasseth all understanding that you, as a Minnesotan with a moral conscience, no longer choose to be NSP's electric collaborator in the daily devastation visited upon people and the environment.


PLUG INTO what Minnesota values and stands for: energy renewables that do no harm. And respect for the rights of human beings.


On 6 April 2000, Northern States Power ended its "eight-month effort" to find new energy suppliers. It selected Manitoba Hydro to supply 500 MW starting in 2005.

An independent auditor selected earlier by NSP now will file a report with the MN PUC. The auditor's report filing could occur up to 3 weeks from now.

The 30-day public comment period (NOT a hearing) begins when the auditor's report is received.

Finally, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission must approve the selection of Manitoba Hydro.


Contact the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission at 651-296-7124.
Staffer Bret Eknes can be reached at 651-296-8667 or

"Only beavers should be allowed to build dams on our territory." (Cree saying)         

Ann Stewart         


"Shocked: Tribe fears it would pay price for power line"

Joe Knight
Eau Claire [WI] Leader Telegram
April 9, 2000, pF1

Electricity in western Wisconsin is a relative bargain, partly because of cheap hydropower imported from Canada. A proposed high-capacity power line from Duluth, Minn., to Wausau would bring more Canadian power to the state. But opponents of the power line say the cheapest energy on the continent -- at a penny per kilowatt hour -- comes at a high cost to natives of northern Canada and the environment.

The flooding associated with hydropower development has ruined the hunting and fishing for the Cree Indians in northern Manitoba, said Eleanor Steffen, an active member of Save Our Unique Lands, a group opposing the Wisconsin power line.

The Indians' homes are gone, their lands are gone and they have had to abandon traditional lifestyles, Steffen said. More than 50 percent of their food was fish, and now the mercury levels in the fish are high, said Steffen, of rural Hawkins.

Representatives of the Pimicikamak Cree have spoken with members of SOUL and have requsted they do everything possible to discourage further building of large hydroelectric dams in northern Canada.

Ann Stewart, an energy activist in Minneapolis who works for the Pimicikamak Cree, said American users of hydropower from Manitoba bear some responsibility for environmental and cultural problems caused by the dams.

But not all Cree Indians in Manitoba agree. In a letter sent to Wisconsin media, Chief Norman Flett of the Split Lake group of Cree writes that although past hydro developments have produced hardships, ending the export of electricity is not the answer.

"In our view, it could well be that the people who would suffer most in the long run from any reduction in trade in electrical power ... would be the Cree of northern Manitoba," Flett wrote. "... The younger and middle-age Cree have grown up with the hydro project in their midst, and many of them do not know a different world."

In a response to Flett's letter, Chief John Miswagon of the Pimicikamak Cree said he will continue to speak out against hydropower. "The Pimicikamak Cree have vowed to no longer be beaten up in silence," Miswagon wrote to Flett. "We, who are most affected by the hydro project ... are speaking out against past and any further destruction of the boreal forest environment that is our common heritage -- all of it.....

"Like your people, Pimicikamak Cree Nation needs to ensure that its future generations have a future. We do not expect them to find it in an environmental slum. We intend to ensure that the slum is cleaned up."

The Lac Courte Oreilles Indian tribe near Hayward opposes the proposed Duluth-to-Wausau power line, as does the Great Lakes Intertribal Council, said Kris Goodwill, attorney for the LCO band. LCO is worried about the environmental and potential human health implications of the power line, she said, and two of the proposed routes for the line would pass through the reservation.

The tribe also feels some empathy for the Cree of northern Manitoba, Goodwill said.

"About 60 years ago the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation was flooded itself by a hydroelectric flowage. The tribe lost a lot of its land base," she said, referring to the creation of the Chippewa Flowage.

Of the electricity NSP supplies to its five-state region, about 11 percent is purchased from Manitoba Hydro, said Brian Elwood of Northern States Power Co. NSP supplies electricity to parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The proposed power line to Wausau probably would not increase the amount of Canadian electricity NSP imports, Elwood added.

John Heino of Minnesota Power, which along with Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service proposed the Duiluth-to-Wausau power line, said the hydropower from Manitoba would be only a minuscule part of the energy transmitted. The two major power pools supplying the Upper Midwest with electricity have more than 90,000 megawatts in generating capacity. Of that total, no more than 2,000 megawatts come from Manitoba at any one time, Heino said. Once that energy enters the U.S. it is mixed with electricity from a variety of other sources, he said.

Canceling the power line because of concerns about Canadian hydropower would be like closing bridges linking Minnesota to Wisconsin because of a concern over one trucking company that uses the highways, Heino said.

But Goodwill said the power line would allow more electricity from northern Canada to be shipped to Wisconsin and would incease the likelihood that more dams would be built in northern Canada, she said.

A better way to meet energy needs would be through local generation of environmentally friendly energy sources, she said. "The Lac Courte Oreilles tribe thinks it's important to look at alternative methods for energy generation. It's especially important for indigenous people who rely on natural resources for cultural and spiritual sustenance," she said.

"How Energy Development Affects Indigenous Peoples"
Environmental Justice and Energy Policy in the Upper Midwest University of St. Thomas, MInneapolis, Minnesota 15 April 2000

Hau mitakolapi naku mitakuyepi. Pat Spears le miyelo. Kul wicasa Oyate ematahan. Hello, my friends and relatives. My name is Pat Spears and I am from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. I am honored to speak to you today on the panel on the Human Impacts of Energy Development on Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous peoples have provided the lands and energy resources in this country since the first piece of wood was burned by the non-Native immigrants who arrived in this hemisphere. Our people have continued to contribute energy resources from lands that have been taken from Tribes that contain coal, uranium, and the rivers that provide hydropower. It hasn't mattered if the Tribal lands were removed from Tribal ownership, leases or the right of "eminent domain". The resources are taken anyway, either by private industry or the government.

The sale or lease of natural resources requires approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the trustee of Indian Tribes and our lands. It's important to recognize where in the bureaucracy the BIA is located. We were first dealt with by the provisional governments of the colonies, other European Nations, then by the US Congress through treaty negotiations administered by the Department of War. It may be more appropriate to deal with the Department of State, but at least the Tribes had a more direct relationship with Congress.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs was transferred to the Department of the Interior which has other bureaus within, such as the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Mines, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Water and Power Resources. The National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Geological Survey are also within the Bureau-ocracy. This is the governmental agency that deals with the taking of lands, rocks, rivers, trees, fish, animals, and Indians. Maybe you never thought about it that way, but somebody did, because that's how Indian people were and still are viewed by many. Not as humans, but in the class of presumed inanimate resources and animals, which are all exploited in some manner. We do recognize that we are related to all life on Mother Earth. The animals, plants, wind, water, and even rocks have a spirit.

Most energy development does not consider the environmental or human impacts of development -- only the comfort and luxury of having energy to provide fuel for industry and automobiles and heat and light for homes and businesses. The external costs of damage to the environment and human health are not factored into the economic equation, especially not for damages to lands, economies, culture, and the lives of indigenous peoples.

You have heard about the environmental impacts and risks from the mining and use of uranium to the land, human health now and for centuries into the future; the drilling of oil wells on and off shore in the lower 48 and in Alaska where oil spills damage the ecosystems in oceans and on the coastal areas; the mining and burning of coal to produce electricity which produces SO2 and acid rain which kills the trees from the tops down and contributes to increased global warming and climate change; the damming of rivers to produce hydroelectric power that destroys and damages large ecoysystems, impacting plant, animal, and human life and also contributes to increased CO2 in the atmosphere and global warming.

People are part of the environment, too. The miners who benefit from the employment suffer from black lung disease and cancer. The Tribes who own the coal and uranium have not received fair market value for the resources until only recently. The Navajo who provide both resources, still have about one third of their people without any electricity. The Alaska Natives pay 50 cents a kilowatt hour for electricity from diesel-powered generators. The hydropower projects built for and in the name of native peoples are in proposed legislation to turn the projects over to the state of Alaska. The Tribes that have had their lands condemned by the government for private utility companies can never be compensated enough to pay for the destruction to the lands, vegetation, wildife, cultures and economies.

Along with the Lac Courtes Oreilles, the Yakima, the eastern and the northwest Tribes, the Cree, the Lakota and Dakota Tribes have paid and are still paying the price for cheap power for the rest of America! We have had our whole way of life changed by the construction of the Missouri River reservoir system for low-cost power, flood control, navigation, and recreation. Our most fertile river bottom lands and timber have been flooded. The wildlife populations have been decreased; our foods and medicines gone forever; our peoples' traditional homelands, sacred sites, and burial grounds are under water. Our people were forced to move from rural areas where families survived on what was provided by our Creator and lived a happier life in the balance of creation. I am reminded every day I look down the river and see the stumps of the ghose trees where I walked and hunted as a boy.

Entire communities, homes, schools, hospitals, and Tribal buildings were forced to relocate. A few Tribes moved some of the more recent cemeteries. Many did not have time, so the newer as well as the old burial grounds were flooded. Our families had to move into poorly deisgned towns with under-built infrastructures and facilities never replaced. It created larger population concentrations and reservation ghettos with no real plan to restore the decimated economies of Tribal homelands. Our people are still recovering from the construction of the dams in the 50's and 60's. The Missouri River is on the endangered list and is dying a slow death.

Vine Deloria, a Lakota from the Standing Rock reservation, and a respected thinker in many circles, has said that the construction of the dams on the Missouri River was the second-largest blow to the Native economies on the Plains since the planned extermination of the buffalo. Like the buffalo we are expendable in the eyes of those in power. The remaining buffalo live in national parks or with us on islands called reservations. The demand continues for use of our remaining alnds and resources.

At least they are not building any more high-head dams in the United States. There has finally a realization that they are destructive and were never cost-effective -- not even in the internal economic cost/benefits ratios, let alone considering the environmental and human costs. In fact, some dams have been or will be decommissioned in the northeast and in the northwest. People are waking up.

There are alternatives. There is existing low-head hydropower technology that operates much like a beaver dam, where life flourishes around the dam instead of being destroyed. We have renewable energy sources, such as solar, photovoltaic power, geothermal power from the earth, and the tremendous wind resource we have in the Great Plains.

The Department of Energy estimates that 75% of the total energy needs in this country can be generated through development of wind energy. This is with technology that exists today and it works. We can generate wind power on the Plains; we need support to use the federal power grid system to move the power to the people who want green power in the states around us and in the Midwest. We say Green Power is Red Power!

We need help in improving or developing the links in the transmission grids so that power can be delivered to the markets that want renewable energy. The Intertribal Council On Utility Policy sees the opportunity to generate windpower and connect the Tribes and communities in this area and in the Great Lakes eastern region through participation in the transmission as partners in the industry. There are solutions to the concerns and problems with construction of new power lines.

Large high-head hydropower is still being developed in other countries, like in China where they are damming the Yangtze and the dams planned in Canada where they will flood the Cree again! It is time to repsect the lives of Native and all peoples who do not support the continued devastation caused by the construction of huge power plants on the rivers that are the lifeblood of the land.

We need to work together to help the Cree Nation, help Mother Earth, and through this, help each other live a better life. Pilamiyapelo. I thank you.

Patrick Spears is President of The Intertribal Council On Utility Policy, Box 831, Rosebud SD 57520; phone 605-856-2173;

Crees: Power line comes with human toll
Canada tribe says dam construction has destroyed their way of life

By Nikki Kallio
Wausau Daily Herald, 16 April 2000, p3

MINNEAPOLIS - Part of John Miswagon's duty as chief of the Cross Lake Cree Nation is to identify the bodies of community members who have killed themselves.

Last year seven of the northern Manitoba nation's 5,500 people committed suicide, and 147 more attempted it. The community has a 92 percent unemployment rate, and hunting and fishing is gone.

All of this has happened since Manitoba Hydro built dams on the Nelson River in 1975, destroying the Pimicikamak Cree traditional way of life and causing a general feeling of hopelessness, Miswagon said.

Some of the power from a proposed 345-kilovolt power line from Duluth to Rothschild could come from Manitoba Hydro projects, utility officials have said. Power also would come from coal-fired plants in the Dakotas.

Wisconsin Public Service and Minnesota Power are proposing the 250-mile line because they say there's a dire need to increase electrical reliability in the state.

Miswagon, other indigenous people and activists discussed the effects of energy development during Saturday's Environmental Justice and Energy Policy in the Upper Midwest conference at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis.

Organizer and professor Steve Hoffman said people often aren't aware of the far-reaching impacts of development.

"Most people don't want to damage other people, and if they had a choice they would say, 'oh, I don't want to do this'," Hoffman said. "But the fact is people don't think of the impacts.'

About 200 people from Midwest states attended, including members of Save Our Unique Lands, or SOUL, a power-line protest group, which has members in Marathon County.

Roger Steffen, the Hawkins-based secretary of Save Our Unique Lands, said people should talk to legislators, petition and write to the Public Service Commission to help make a difference for the Cree nation.

"It already might be having some effect," he said.

Steffen said Minnesota Power officials originally said about 40 percent of power going through the proposed line would be from Manitoba Hydro, but later said little or no power would come from there.

Information from Manitoba Hydro said about 10 percent of Northern States Power electricity comes from their utility. The Minneapolis-based company's power coverage includes western Wisconsin.

Miswagon said if the power line is built, the Cree in northern Manitoba will experience more devastation because water levels will continue to fluctuate, eroding shorelines and killing wildlife.

Two years after the hydroelectric dams were implemented, Manitoba Hydro and five Cree nations, including Cross Lake, signed the Northern Flood Agreement, which was to provide the nations with some compensation. The Cross Lake Cree are just now receiving some benefits of the 25-year-old agreement, and only after it sued the utility, he said.

A March 6 letter to American electric customers from Bob Brennan, Manitoba Hydro president and chief executive officer, said the utility is aware of problems it has caused and has spent more than $396 million to mitigate damage in northern Manitoba.

"Our disagreement with (the Cross Lake) community is an anomaly," Brennan wrote. "We have successful, working implementation agreements with four of the five First Nations who are part of the Northern Flood Agreement."

But Miswagon said nothing short of restoring the natural environment will help the Cree. Miswagon, who is 35, remembers a much different childhood than kids born after 1975 in Cross Lake.

"My children will never have the pleasure of seeing what things were like in the old days," he said.

Copyright 1999 Wausau Daily Herald

Link between energy issues, human rights explored
Canadian Indian chief decries effects of hydroelectric power
Tom Meersman
Star Tribune, 17 April 2000, pB2

An American Indian chief from Canada told an audience of about 200 Saturday in Minneapolis that hydroelectric power, sold through Manitoba Power to Northern States Power Co. (NSP) and other Minnesota utilities, has destroyed his people's way of life, dignity and culture over the past 25 years. "Electricity that Manitoba Hydro sells to you is not clean, it is not renewable for you or for us, and it is not cheap," said John Miswaggon, chief of the Pimicikimak Cree Nation of Cross Lake, Manitoba, about 400 miles north of Winnipeg.

He spoke at a one-day conference on human rights and energy issues at the University of St. Thomas.

Miswaggon said dams and hydroelectric plants built in the 1970s and 1980s have diverted rivers, flooded forests, decimated fisheries, eroded burial grounds and ruined trapping routes. The cumulative effect, he said, has been to deprive his community of 5,500 people of their pride and livelihood, which has been replaced largely by an "underlying common denominator of hopelessness."

Last year there were seven suicides at Cross Lake, Miswaggon said, and there have been 142 attempted suicides since last fall. "It is my duty as chief to be informed immediately of every attempt, and it is my duty to attend every funeral, and it my duty to identify bodies that are hanging from trees, houses, you name it," he said. "There came a point in time last year when every phone call I got made me nervous."

Manitoba Hydro officials said it is unfair for the Cross Lake community to blame all of its social ills on the hydroelectric projects. "There was a lot of unemployment before our projects, and they look to us to remedy all their problems these days," spokesman Glenn Schneider said. The utility operates as an arm of provincial government.

Schneider acknowledged that the huge changes in river systems affected the tribe's traditional hunting, fishing and trapping activities, but he noted that in most cases the wildlife populations have recovered over the past 25 years. Fishing turned profitable for the tribe in recent years, he said, and the problem with trapping hasn't been a lack of animals, but a downturn in the world fur market.

He said Manitoba Hydro has provided $44 million (in Canadian currency) to the Cross Lake tribe to assist its members with hunting and fishing programs, and to compensate for about 2,900 of the 3,200 individual claims that have been filed for property loss and damage. Four other Cree tribes affected by the hydro projects also have been compensated, Schneider said, and one is working with the utility on a possible future hydroelectric project.

Past problems, preliminary plans for more dams and proposals for new power lines in Minnesota and Wisconsin have begun to draw attention and concern from some Minnesota environmental groups and religious organizations. NSP, which receives about 10 percent of its electricity from Manitoba Hydro, said two weeks ago that it plans to renew a major 10-year contract with Manitoba Hydro that expires in 2005, provided that financial terms can be worked out and state regulatory approvals are received. "Over the years we've had good experiences with purchases from Manitoba Hydro as far as reliability and economics," said Jim Alders, NSP manager of regulatory projects.

As far as the effects of hydroelectric plants upon the Cross Lake community, Alders said: "We think that's an issue that needs to be resolved by those closest to it: the Canadian government, Manitoba Hydro and the first nations [Indian tribes]."

Energy and social issues
Although the Manitoba dispute was one of the more prominent issues at the conference, its organizer said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss more broadly the relationship between human rights issues and energy policy. Steve Hoffman, St. Thomas environmental studies director, said there is a pattern of large power lines, nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams and coal-fired power plants being selected and built mainly on the basis of their physical impacts, but not always with much consideration for their social repercussions. The result has been that many energy plants, he said, as well as hazardous-waste dumps and incinerators, have been built disproportionately near low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

That concept, called environmental racism, is "not much used in thinking about resource decisions, and hardly at all in thinking about energy policy," Hoffman said. "The question we need to ask is whether people have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their social lives and the physical environment that they depend upon."

Other conference speakers cited examples of immense dams in India, China, Brazil, Guatemala and Indonesia that have flooded millions of acres of fertile farmland and forced about 90 million people to relocate against their will; proposals to strip-mine coal in southeastern Montana against the wishes of the northern Cheyenne nation; extensive uranium mining that has exposed native people to radioactive mining wastes in Namibia, South Africa, Australia and New Mexico, and large-scale logging, mining and river damming throughout northern Canada and Alaska without adequate compensation for tribal communities.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., who was active in a power-line construction controversy in central Minnesota in the 1970s, told conference attendees that they need to improve their grass-roots organizing skills to promote renewable energy and its favorable economics and environmental benefits. "Minnesota seems to go through this every 20 years or so, but honest to goodness, we're a perfect example of a place where it's in our economic self-interest to keep a whole lot more capital in our state if we commit to wind and solar and biomass," he said. "It's a big part of our future."

� Copyright 2000 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

On Earth Day weekend, a Minnesota activist speaks


Dear Cree sympathizers:

We had a small victory and then a bitter defeat on Thursday. Bad news first, followed by the good news, with a suggestion of how you can expand on the victory and help the Cross Lake Crees.

Bad news: The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board finally ruled on the scope of the Duluth powerline hearing to resume soon in Duluth. The Board members all voted to narrowly limit testimony about the effects of the 12-mile powerline to Minnesota only. No effects or impacts that the powerline shall have outside Minnesota borders will be allowed at the hearing. However, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Karen Studders, did remind her fellow Board members that environmental effects do not stop at state borders. Why she went with the herd in voting to limit the powerline hearing testimony to only Minnesota effects is a puzzlement, then.

The powerline opponents from Wisconsin and Minnesota (except me) left the Board meeting in silent defeat when the vote was passed. The Board had announced at the beginning of the meeting that they refused to take any questions or to hear any comments from the audience regarding the 12-mile powerline. However, they did take testimony from Minnesota's Senator Bob Lessard who spoke against allowing testimony from Canadians on the powerline issue. (Senator Lessard is the key legislator responsible for preventing the Hydro Review Bill from even being heard for consideration in the Legislature this year. He decided to keep the bill from progressing because he had privately met with Canadian Indians and took their testimony into account.) Next, the Board took testimony from the lawyer for the Split Lake Crees. Split Lake Crees seem to express intense interest in getting dam-building jobs from Manitoba Hydro and are asking the Cross Lake Crees to give up their treaty rights--to simply accept a one-time cash settlement from Manitoba Hydro as they did.

I was able to get around the Board muzzle on audience testimony by waiting until the very end, after they finished all of their business. They had to allow me to speak because on my question card I had listed as my topic "MEQB Mission." I made them tell me what their purpose as an agency is. Then I told them that I as a Minnesotan represented the public interest of Minnesotans and of our environment. I told them--and several of them had left the meeting already, so not all of them heard my evaluation of their conduct--"You have made a grave mistake." I further told them that they would not allow a hazardous substance like heroin to be transported through our state, and by implication I was insuating that they had just let a hazardous substance to be transported through by their vote. Perhaps Commissioner Studders understood my meaning. I hope all of them thought keenly about the silent rebuke with which I confronted them on my wooden cutting board from my kitchen. On it I had taped a hand-lettered sign which said, "ENVIRONMENTAL QUASHING BOARD?" and I propped it up right in front of them for all to see.

So, now the hearing will be scheduled in Duluth about whether the 12-mile line should be required to furnish an Environmental Impact Assessment, or whether the utility can build it without first showing what the environmental and social effects will be. The hearing judge will now only allow testimony about the effects that will happen strictly within Minnesota borders. This is a defeat for environmental justice. But perhaps good witnesses can be found to prove that the powerline will be very bad for Minnesota--that could be a grand victory, if it happens, especially if it convinces the judge to declare that Minnesota Power must furnish an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Next, the GOOD NEWS! The Minneapolis Star Tribune printed two editorials which referred to the April 17 article about the Environmental Justice conference held April 15. Here are those letters:

    Energy and human rights

    I truly appreciated Tom Meersman's April 17 article about the conference on energy and human rights issues. Those of us who enjoy the benefits of international trade, whether in goods or in energy, need to be informed about the real costs of what we consume. I am especially interested in the plight of the Cree Indians -- so near us, yet beyond that information curtain that all too often extends along the 49th parallel.

    -- Rhoda R. Gilman, St. Paul.       

    I agree with NSP's Jim Alders, who was quoted April 17 on the dispute over the failure of Manitoba Hydro to fulfill its 1977 contract with the Indians in Manitoba's Cross Lake community. "Alders said: 'We think that's an issue that needs to be resolved by those closest to it: the Canadian government, Manitoba Hydro and the first nations [Indian tribes].' ''

    What I can't understand is why NSP would want to do business with a company that does not keep its legal contracts. Until that company gets around to keeping that contract -- or, treaty, if you will, NSP should steer clear [of] it. Otherwise, NSP will be guilty of environmental racism by collaborating with Manitoba Hydro.

    In addition, NSP's eagerness to contract for more power from that Canadian utility calls into question its street smarts: how can NSP trust Manitoba Hydro won't pull a fast one?

    NSP, drop Manitoba Hydro-electricity like a hot potato! Stolen goods might be cheap, but you've got to be crazy, or immoral, to knowingly buy them.

    -- Diane J. Peterson, White Bear Lake.       

    I have been informed that our two letters have been posted on the Internet discussion forum of people who currently and/or potentially are shareholders of the Duluth company wanting the powerline, Minnesota Power. You can observe, and possibly participate in, commentary on that forum by going to: =496

    The shareholders are having their annual meeting in Duluth on May 9, incidentally.

    I recommend that people write to the Minnesota PUC with your comments on the Star Tribune article and on the points raised in the two letters to the editor. If possible, get those clippings from the newspaper and include it with your letter. The PUC is about to decide whether it will allow NSP to get another contract with Manitoba Hydro. The Commissioners have not yet shown any indication that they mistrust Manitoba Hydro's reliability as a "renewable" energy source. Nor have the Commissioners proved that they are sympathetic enough to the environment to personally investigate the claims of the Cross Lake Crees. The Crees testified to the Commissioners in November 1999. Conscientious Commissioners would take that testimony seriously enough to go up themselves to Cross Lake, to discover the facts first-hand. Do they want to make Minnesota collaborators in the destruction of North American rivers and forests? Do they want to collaborate in a human rights abuse? Are they going to get away with seeing and hearing no evil just because they like NSP's preferences over those of concerned citizens of Minnesota? Is the PUC looking out for your interests? Isn't that their mandate? Tell them what you think in the most persuasive way you know how. Write to:

    Gregory Scott, Chair       
    Minnesota Public Utilities Commission       
    121 7th Place East, Suite 350       
    St. Paul MN 55101-2147       

    I thank you for taking time out to stop the hydro-electric holocaust,

    Diane J. Peterson       
    Member, Peace and Social Action Committee       
    Twin Cities Friends Meeting (Quakers)       
    St. Paul, Minnesota       
    (651) 653-4385,       

Lessard Limits Powerline Protests

Northland Reader [Duluth MN],
27 April 2000, p3

The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, reponding to a plea from Bob Lessard, State Senator from International Falls, voted unanimously to deny the right to speak out against the first leg of the Duluth-Wausau Power Line to many of the people attending their April 20 hearing on the first leg of the project, the 12-mile Hermantown-Gary West Duluth line.

The two most important groups to be silenced were the Wisconsin opponents whose homes and farms will be on the power line route, and supporters of the Cross Lake Cree whose indigenous lands have become what amounts of [sic] a vast energy storage facility for Manitoba Hydro, a major supplier of power to the line.

Lessard urged the MEQB not to "be wasting a lot of time on insignificant things."

As to the problems faced by the Cross Lake Cree, he pointed out that another band of Cree had demanded, thorugh their lawyer, to be heard if the Cross Lake Cree were heard, because their band deprives economic benefit from Manitoba Hydro.

The Cross Lake Cree live on their traditional homelands in an area that is both flooded and drained at the will of Manitoba Hydro. The water that sustains their ecosystem and their lives is also, to all intents and purposes, stored electric power. But it cannot be used both to sustain the lakes, rivers, and ecosystems and also meet the demands of electric consumers in other parts of Canada and the Northern United States. Just when the land most needs the water retained, because there has been little rain or snow to replenish it, that water will be "drawn down" to meet the power needs of the customers. When the land has plenty of moisture, and the water needs to be allowed to drain away, it is stored behind Manitoba Hydro's dams, causing flooding.

The cumulative effect, according to Miswaggon, chief of the Cross Lake Nation, has been to deprive his community of 5,500 people of their pride and livelihood, which has been replaced largely be an "underlying common denominator of hopelessness." Last year there were seven suicides at Cross Lake, Miswaggon said, and there have been 142 attempted suicides since last fall.

Senator Paul Wellstone, speaking Saturday, April 15 Environmental Justice and Energy Policy in Minneapolis, [sic] pointed out that Minnesota would not only reduce the impact on this group of people, but would also provide jobs and energy independence for Minnesotans by developing wind power electrical generation, and other sustainable, local power generation.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission still has to decide on the plan for the Wisconsin part of the powerline. Comments regarding the impact on the Cross Lake Cree can be sent, as well as comments regarding Wisconsin. Comments should be sent to: Kathleen Zuelsdorff WEPA Co-odinator, [sic] Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7854, Madison, WI 53707-7854. More information on the Cross Lake Cree is available from Ann Stewart, at 612-871-8404, e-mail

Information on the concerns of Wisconsin residents is available from the Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) website at

[accompanied by drawing of a dinosaur's head with a forked tongue and the caption, "GEEZ! Even I got more heart than Bob Lessard!"...the article following was about the recent discovery of a fossilized heart in South Dakota.]

Environmental justice and energy policy conference
The real cost of what we consume

News from Indian Country [Hayward WI], mid May 2000, p9a

People gathered to learn about the connection between environmental justice and energy policy at the April 15 conference at the University of St. Thomas, a prominent Twin Cities Catholic college. The conference was billed as an opportunity for people of color and activists to find common ground.

"I don't think we should be reluctant to talk about values," US Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and the keynote speaker, told 220 attendees. "Nationwide, people support what's called soft-path energy."

But this support for renewables like wind, solar and energy efficiencies, Wellstone pointed out, "doesn't translate into political clout."

"The utility (Manitoba Hydro) has a new contract with Northern States Power pending at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission," said scheduled speaker Chief John Miswagon, head of Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake, Manitoba.

"Split Lake's leaders want a new dam so they can get more compensation. Their people suffer as much poverty and despair as we do, but we've chosen a different path," he said of an unannounced appearance by Cree from Split Lake and Nelson House, Manitoba, and the CEO of Manitoba Hydro.

Although four large generating stations on the Nelson River nearest to Split Lake cause ongoing environmental damage, Cross Lake lies ten miles from the control gate for the entire Nelson River hydro system.

"Every drop of water released from the storage reservoir which is Lake Winnipeg into the Nelson affects my people and our land," Miswagon said. "That is why we tell our story on behalf of the Nelson's environment because this project continues to violate our human and environmental rights. Where is the justice in that for us and for Minnesota users of this power?"

Patrick Spears, president of Inter-Tribal Council on Utility Policy in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, agreed. "It is time to respect the lives of Native and all peoples who do not support the continued devastation caused by the construction of huge power plants on the rivers that are the lifeblood of the land," he told activists.

"The Department of Energy estimates that 75% of the total energy needs in the United States can be generated through development of wind energy. We can generate wind power on the Plains; we need support to use the federal power grid system to move the power to the people who want green power."

Jason Whiteman, Natural Resources Director for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Lame Deer, Montana, and Juliette Majot, Executive Director of International Rivers Network in Berkeley, California, as well as Chief Miswagon, showed slides of the human and environmental damages caused by coal production and large-hydro generation.

"I was horrified by the environmental pornography," said an activist from Minnesota. "I finally understand that special places like the Nelson, the lands of Lame Deer and the Three Gorges in China are being lost to all of us."

Speaker Dianne D'Arrigo from the Nuclear Information Resource Service in Washington DC, also faciliated one of tfour afternoon workshops designed for activists to learn more about specific nuclear, coal, megahydro and transmission issues.

The transmission workshop was led by Linda Ceylor, spokeswoman for Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL), a grassroots-based organization in Wisconsin. SOUL has teamed up with the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe to fight a 250-mile power line that will ship coal-generated electricity from North Dakota and hydro from Manitoba through Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.

At the beginning of the day, moderator Steven Hoffman, chairman of environmental studies at the University of St. Thomas, said, "The question we need to ask is whether people have an opportunity to participate meaningfuly in decisions that affect their social lives and the physical environment that they depend upon."

Rhoda Gilman wrote a few days later in a letter published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Those of us who enjoy the benefits of international trade, whether in goods or in energy, need to be informed about the real costs of what we consume."

[accompanied by photo with the following caption: "From left, U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone (Minnesota), MIchael Noble, executive director of Minnesotans for an Energy Efficient Economy, and Chief John Miswagon (Cross Lake, Manitoba), at the Environmental Justice and Energy Policy Conference on April 15 in Minneapolis.]

Kick the Tires, Minnesota,
When Choosing Manitoba Hydro

May 12, 2000

On April 6, Northern States Power announced the end of an eight-month effort to identify new suppliers to meet Minnesota1s growing electricity needs. Of the three finalists selected, a utility owned by the province of Manitoba will provide the most power. Manitoba Hydro will begin transmitting 500 megawatts annually in 2004-2005, pending approval by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

NSP says Manitoba Hydro1s electricity is a renewable, environmentally friendly product with "significant price advantages".

But a closer look reveals just the opposite.

The Background

For thousands of years before Manitoba Hydro came into our territory, my people, the Pimicikamak Cree Indians, lived in balance with our environment. We call this place Nitaskinan, "Our Land." Our elders say that the Creator put us here to benefit from its beauty, and to protect it from waste and destruction.

Three decades ago our northern ecosystem was re-engineered to generate power for southern Canada and the United States. Our community of Cross Lake is ten miles from one of the five generating stations built on the Nelson River.

We know firsthand the devastation that has resulted, such as collapsing river banks, shorelines piled with rotted timber, downstream island erosion, soil and water pollution, unstable winter ice, and flooded traplines. Our sustainable economy based on hunting, fishing and trapping has been destroyed, and welfare offered in its stead. In Cross Lake, we have 85% unemployment, deep poverty, and a widespread despair that manifests itself in suicides and suicide attempts.

In the aftermath of the hydroproject, the utility came to acknowledge that serious damage had been done to the lands and livelihoods of five Cree communities. In 1977, the governments of Canada and Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro signed the Northern Flood Agreement with us which was supposed to provide compensation and environmental mitigation. Twenty-three years later, their continuing refusal to meaningfully implement this Charter of Rights and Benefits is cause for ever more despair in Cross Lake.

The Nelson River1s generating stations supply over eighty percent of Manitoba Hydro1s power. Manitoba Hydro now supplies eleven percent of NSP1s electricity. With utility restructuring on the horizon, Manitoba Hydro wants to double its exports to the states, and plans a new dam on the Nelson River.

More export sales will exacerbate the environmental damage we live with daily. We have to tell our story to Minnesota1s regulators and decision-makers and anyone else who will listen.

NSP says that it is "monitoring the issues", and that the Public Utilities Commission is not "the appropriate forum" in which to discuss our concerns. What this means is that NSP relies on Manitoba Hydro for assurances that all is as it should be. In other words, the buyer accepts the representations of the seller, which is hardly a disinterested, objective party.

A few environmental organizations have witnessed the destruction. But no utility executive or decision-maker from Minnesota has come to us in Cross Lake.

Questioning NSP1s Choice

Minnesota's environmentalists are national leaders in promoting wind, which has quickly become a leading option for the future. However, NSP rejected a competitively priced offer of wind on the grounds that it requires new transmission and is too intermittent, in favor of Manitoba Hydro. Furthermore, NSP ignores the potential unreliability of Manitoba Hydro's power supply, which is dependent upon adequate water supplies and flow (both of which are unpredictable). NSP's refusal to address these issues persists, even after we raised them in a formal submission to the PUC.

NSP may not think this is a problem, but the Canadian utility has begun to acknowledge that it will require additional back-up power when water behind its dams is low. Manitoba Hydro plans to install 225 megawatts of gas turbines at its coal generating station in Brandon, fifty miles from Minnesota's border.

If NSP believes it is only buying green, renewable electricity generated from falling water, in reality there will be more thermal in the Manitoba Hydro mix by 2004-2005. There could be even more thermal in coming years as the utility attempts to improve its system reliability to satisfy the needs of the export market.

In Conclusion

NSP had a menu of attractive alternatives, but it's buying the largest amount of firm power that Manitoba Hydro offered (also the largest amount NSP is procuring in this round of bidding). NSP wants to lock in Manitoba Hydro now before Minnesota's environmental groups ask the PUC to investigate the environmental and reliability concerns we substantiated in our submission.

If Manitoba Hydro wins, we believe Minnesota loses. The state will have thrown away one of its last opportunities before possible electric restructuring, to thoughtfully consider utility procurement choices, as well as the opportunity to formulate an energy policy that is fair for all.

We ask Minnesotans and the PUC to exercise their affirmative obligations and "kick the tires" of Manitoba Hydro's exports.

John Miswagon is the elected Chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation. This material was supplied to us by Ann Stewart US Information Officer, Pimicikamak Cree Nation, 121 West Grant Street, Suite 116, Minneapolis MN 55403. Ann may be reached at 612-871-8404 or email

[Accompanied by photo with caption: "Dead trees along the shore of Sipiwesk Lake in the Pimicikamak Cree Nation's territory." Photo by Ron Niezen.]




Power contract protest enters eighth week

Demonstrators say Manitoba Hydro dams to supply NSP ruin Pimicikamak Cree Nation lands and waterways Environmental activists are beginning their eighth week of demonstrations against Northern States Power Co.'s plans to continue buying power from a Canadian source they say damages Pimicikamak Crees' traditional lands and waters in northern Manitoba.

Every Thursday at 11:45 a.m., outside the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's weekly meetings in St. Paul, about a dozen members of Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice hold what they call a "power hour" to protest NSP's use of power from Manitoba Hydro.

The rallies started May 11, about the time NSP was scheduled to submit an independent auditor's report on three companies bids to supply part of an additional 1,200 megawatts of energy NSP says it will need to power Minnesota in coming years. A month-long public comment period was to follow. But NSP still has not issued the report, and the environmentalists continue to stage their rallies.

"Everything's building. We're getting more media inquiries, more out-of-state inquiries," says Ann Stewart, a lobbyist for the Pimicikamak Crees. "People are determined to end the relationship between Manitoba Hydro and NSP."

Stewart says Manitoba Hydro's massive re-engineering of lakes and waterways in the Nelson River and Churchill River basins has eroded shorelines, polluted water, and released toxic gases that poison fish and their predators.

NSP regulatory projects manager Jim Alders says the company feels that the Canadian government should settle any problems between the Cree and Manitoba Hydro. Alder says NSP's main focus is to inform itself of the environmental issues involved in the controversy, and that it has surveyed Manitoba Hydro's system to assess the situation.

NSP has not met with the Pimicikamak Crees or MWEJ, and has not said when its independent auditor's report will be finished. The utility's current contract with Manitoba Hydra expires in 2003.

--Ylan Mui


Foes hope to highlight project's environmental problems

Rivers Awareness Tour

By Steve Kuchera
Duluth News Tribune
July 24, 2000

Opponents of the proposed Arrowhead-Weston high-voltage transmission line believe the project would create a 250-mile-long swath of environmental destruction and increased hardships for Cree Indians living in Manitoba.

To draw attention to their concerns, power-line foes begin a weeklong trek from near Duluth to Keshena, Wis., Friday. Along the way, the group will hold paddles, hikes and social events to deliver its message.

"We think environmental costs are being left out of this debate," said Linda Ceylor, a spokeswoman for Save Our Unique Lands, one of the organizers of the Rivers Awareness Tour.

"Once you've built the line, it's there," she said. "If we decide in five years that we don't need it, are they really going to say `OK, we'll take it out?' We can't just put things back the way they were."

Project supporters say the 345-kilovolt line that Minnesota Power and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation want to build between Hermantown and Wausau, Wis., will increase the reliability of the region's electrical system and help Wisconsin meet its growing energy needs.

Project opponents worry that the line will harm property values, health and the environment. They say greater emphasis should be put on conservation, renewable energy sources and on small power plants built where the electricity is needed.

"An ecological approach to energy stresses conservation and the alternatives available in the Midwest," said Kevin O'Brien, spokesman for Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice, which is also involved in the rivers tour.

Beyond backyards

Much of the media attention on the power-line debate has focused on the concerns of property owners along the line, creating an impression that opposition to the line is a not-in-my-backyard reaction, said Ann Stewart, another event organizer.

"But there are other issues, which are the ecological and the bioregional ones, the effects of transmission lines crossing wild and scenic areas," she said. "This line would cross a lot of special places."

The line would cross several rivers along its route, as well as pass through forests, farms and wetlands. A draft environmental impact statement done by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin found the Arrowhead-Weston line has a greater potential to harm the environment than three possible alternatives elsewhere in the state.

The Arrowhead-Weston line, however, is the only one that utility companies have asked to build. And the firms say they will do what they can to limit environmental damages.

"At all of the major streams and rivers we will use existing rights of way, and most of those are transmission lines," said Bob Lindholm, senior environmental compliance specialist with Minnesota Power.

Lindholm has met with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Public Service Commission, the National Park Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss ways to reduce the environmental impact of the line. There have been discussions about improving the scenic qualities of some rivers by having Minnesota Power pay to redesign local power grids to eliminate several distribution lines currently crossing the rivers.

There is no single route planned for the line. There are several possible routes, each with pros and cons. Some routes run through more remote areas -- keeping it away from people but breaking up forests, which can affect animals, such as timber wolves, that require solitude. Others make greater use of existing power or pipeline right of ways -- reducing the problem of forest fragmentation but bringing the line into close proximity to a larger number of people.

It will be up to the Public Service Commission to decide if the need for the line outweighs its environmental impacts and which, if any, of the routes it will follow.

The commission's staff is working on a final environmental impact statement, and is expected to begin hearings on the proposed line this fall.

Beyond the U.S. border

One issue the commissioners won't consider, but that some power-line foes want people to be aware of, is the controversy between the Cross Lake Cree and Manitoba Hydro. Four members of the Cross Lake (or Pimicikamak) Cree Nation are scheduled to attend the River Awareness Tour.

"Part of this event is to make people aware that there is a problem in Manitoba," Ceylor said. "It's something that has to be faced. It's not just about us in our backyards."

The conflict between the Cross Lake Nation and Manitoba began in the 1970s, when Manitoba Hydro built dams on Nelson River north of Winnipeg, flooding large tracts of land.

The flooding released mercury locked in the soils, polluting water and fish. Fluctuating water levels, erosion and trees washed into the reservoir have made water travel difficult and harmed wildlife. All this, critics say, have devastated the Cree.

"You took a vibrant subsistence culture and destroyed it and are replacing it with handouts," said Stewart, a lobbyist for the Cross Lake Nation.

Four of the five Cree First Nations affected by the hydro projects have accepted settlement packages totaling more than $350 million in compensation. Some of the nations support further development.

The Cross Lake Cree, however, haven't reached a final settlement with the company or province (which owns Manitoba Hydro) and don't want development they view as destructive.

If Arrowhead-Weston is built, O'Brien said, "It will give Manitoba Hydro the rationalization to double the amount of construction in northern Manitoba."

Manitoba Hydro's hydroelectric capability totals 5,003 megawatts, 60 percent of which is sold within the province. The company has an untapped potential of another 5,000 megawatts.

By comparison, the Arrowhead-Weston line's normal capacity would be 600 megawatts, with the ability to carry up to 750 megawatts for brief periods of time. And if it is built, the line would carry electricity from a number of different sources, Minnesota Power spokesman Terry Johnson said.

Trying to link Arrowhead-Weston with future, large-scale expansions of Manitoba Hydro is "one of those unfortunate exaggerations we are trying to contend with some of the folks campaigning in the U.S." said Donne Flanagan, a Manitoba government spokesman. "They are proponents of things like wind and solar and don't like hydro energy. They have thrown some of the legitimate, long-standing issue of the folks at Cross Lake into the middle of their campaigns."

O'Brien's group, Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice, is pressuring the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to cancel a contract between Northern States Power and Manitoba Hydro. The group urges more investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"The Minnesota electricity consumer is purchasing a product from Manitoba Hydro that doesn't meet our minimal Minnesota standards for the environment and human decency," O'Brien said.

A new provincial government took office last year and has a greater commitment to working with Manitoba's aboriginal peoples, Flanagan said.

"There is no denying there has been devastation caused by hydro development over the years," Eric Robinson, Manitoba's Minister of Aboriginal and Northern affairs and a member of the Cross Lake Cree Nation, said. "As a new (provincial) government we are determined to correct some of those wrongs that have been imposed upon our people."

"We have been misrepresented by environmental groups," Robinson said. "It's my hope that these groups are not trying to achieve their own ends by using the suffering and misery of Indian people."

On the Matter of the Exemption Application
by Minnesota Power for a High-Voltage Transmission Line
Known as the Arrowhead Project

EQB Docket No. MP-HVTL-EA-1-99
OAH Docket No. 10-2901-12620-2

Testimony presented by:
    William Osborne, Vice Chief
    Pimicikamak Cree Nation
    Cross Lake, Manitoba
    August 28, 2000

Thank you for the opportunity to address you on a very important matter of concern to my people, the Pimicikamak Crees of Cross Lake, Manitoba.

We are aware that efforts continue to be made to portray our concerns as ones that should and can only be dealt with in Canada. We assure our American supporters and interested parties that Pimicikamak Cree Nation is taking all steps in Canada to address the Canadian aspects of issues of concern to us.

However, we are with you this evening because we believe there are impacts for the United States about the importation of Manitoba hydroelectric power that can only and must be addressed here.

I draw your attention to two sentences that appear on page three of Minnesota Power's Application for Exemption:

"There are two major energy resource regions which support the energy use in the region, in addition to the various coal, nuclear and hydro facilities located throughout the area. These are the lignite coal reserves located near Bismarck, North Dakota and the Nelson River Hydroelectric system in northern Manitoba."

As inhabitants since time immemorial, of Nitaskinan, "Our Land", today we live with a mega-hydroelectric project that continues to devastate our way of life and our environment. We respectfully remind you that any proposed project south of the US/Canada border that would influence the operation of the generating stations on the Nelson River is of great concern to us.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation's fundamental rights and interests are clearly involved in any proposed undertaking that carries with it the likelihood that Manitoba Hydro's electricity sales would increase, in the event the 250-mile line is constructed from Duluth to Wausau.

In a proceeding now before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Manitoba Hydro has declared secret all important data on its operations. In this way it is preventing American citizens and Pimicikamak Cree Nation access to information about the American and Canadian economic, reliability, environmental and other consequences of buying its power.

Such stonewalling by a Canadian utility should be completely unacceptable, and would be unlawful if it were an American utility, and yet it appears to be an acceptable cost of doing business with Manitoba Hydro.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation wonders what information Manitoba Hydro chooses not to supply to the proponents of the transmission line under consideration. We submit that no agency in the Midwest has access to the full range of data on the reliability and air emissions of Manitoba Hydro's system that would determine if Canadian imports are beneficial for the North American environment and for American customers.

Earlier this year, a Minnesota Power spokesperson was quoted as saying, "This is only a transmission line."

Last fall, one of our representatives was shown a map of the Midwestern electric grid and the proposed twelve-mile segment. He said it reminded him of a spider's web. If even one section is disturbed, the entire web feels the pressure.

This planned transmission line hardwires the Midwest to what a Canadian church inquiry in 1999 called "a moral and ecological catastrophe". It was referring to the wholesale destruction of thousands of square miles, millions of acres of lake, rivers, shoreline and wildlife habitat, and to the resulting human misery for indigenous peoples whose traditional lands, economies, ways of life, and even our lives, are being taken.

Any further development of the estimated 5,000-6,000 megawatt potential in Nitaskinan and elsewhere in the vast Nelson River watershed will inevitably require more river diversions, dam construction and the flooding of more boreal forest and river habitat.

In the early 1990's, our cousins, the Crees of James Bay, Quebec, issued a warning to the citizens and decision-makers of Vermont concerning power purchases from Hydro-Quebec. They engaged American experts to analyze the proposed power purchases from an American perspective, on economic and reliability grounds. The Quebec Crees and their experts were ignored and the deal was signed.

Ten years later, the cost of having ignored the critical information and analysis provided by their indigenous neighbors to the north has run into billions of dollars and a protracted dispute in Vermont.

While we understand that the scope of this proceeding has been deliberately narrowed, we assert that the multitude of citizens from Wisconsin and Minnesota who are taking an interest, must alert Minnesota to the fact that the decision you make on a proposed short section of line has implications beyond your jurisdictional borders.

We encourage you to make the decision that is in the best interests of the people and the environment of Minnesota. We also ask that the decision you reach recognizes the importance of the boreal forests and rivers upon which my people depend.

    Thank you! Ekosani!

Pull the plug?

Critics, who maintain Manitoba Hydro destroys the
environment and tramples Native rights, want Xcel Energy
to stop acquiring electricity from the Canadian utility.

Canada must resolve dispute with Indians

Jim Alders, Commentator
Pioneer Press, St. Paul MN October 12, 2000

Calls to cancel the agreement between Xcel Energy, which formerly was Northern States Power Co., and Manitoba Hydro must be evaluated on whether such an action would have its desired effect of resolving the dispute among the various nations in Canada.

Additionally, as a provider of critical services to electricity customers in this region, Xcel Energy is obligated to consider the effects any action would have on our ability to provide low-cost, reliable electric service to our customers.

No one disputes that Manitoba Hydro's developments of the Nelson and Churchill rivers of northern Manitoba, constructed decades ago, changed the land and affected local communities, including five First Nations.

Through the Northern Flood Agreement, Manitoba Hydro has worked with each of the First Nations and reached settlements with four of the five. Discussions with the fifth, the Cross Lake Cree, have not yet resulted in settlement. Currently, the Canadian government, Manitoba Hydro and the Cross Lake Cree are working to resolve the issue through the appropriate Canadian legal channels.

We have met with Manitoba government officials and with members of various First Nations. The Split Lake Cree and the Cree of Nelson House, two of the bands that have reached agreement with Manitoba Hydro, hold a different view from the Cross Lake Cree. In fact, the Split Lake Cree and Cree of Nelson House are working in partnership with Manitoba Hydro on the possibility of future hydroelectric development in the region.

While we have encouraged resolution of this dispute, ultimately it can be settled only by Canada's national government, the Manitoba provincial government and the First Nations.

Ending Xcel Energy's agreement with Manitoba Hydro will not move this Canadian dispute to resolution, and it will negatively affect our customers.

We at Xcel Energy have worked to provide a diverse mix of reliable electricity supply resources. Manitoba Hydro is one source of this diversity, serving approximately 12 percent of the electricity needs of our Upper Midwest customers. We not only purchase electricity from Manitoba Hydro during our hot summers when our customers need it most, but we also sell power to Manitoba Hydro at times in the winter when the citizens of Manitoba most need it and we have available supply.

This relationship has allowed both companies to avoid building power plants -- with their associated costs and environmental impacts -- that would otherwise be needed to satisfy customer.

If we cancel our agreement with Manitoba Hydro, the Canadian utility will have little difficulty selling its energy to other customers. Canceling our agreement with Manitoba Hydro also will force us to replace 12 percent of our yearly supply with new sources of electricity at the same time our region struggles to find new sources to supply new demand. The same kind of impacts may also be true for Manitoba.

The cost and associated environmental impacts of replacement power would be significant. Consequently, ending our agreement would mean higher prices for our customers without bringing this dispute any closer to resolution.

We will continue to meet with the stakeholders and encourage a settlement.

Alders (e-mail: is manager of regulatory administration at Xcel Energy.

Costs of 'cheap' hydroelectricity are too high -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Diane J. Peterson

Manitoba Hydro sells artificially low-priced electricity to Xcel Energy, formerly NSP. The price would be higher if Canada respected the environmental, treaty and human rights of the Cree Indians whose lands and waters in northern Manitoba are being destroyed to generate this "cheap" power.

Although Canada chooses to neglect its own law and the dictates of morality and justice, that does not give Xcel the ethical right to retail that electricity here, or anywhere. Xcel wants everyone to believe that distributing Manitoba Hydro's low-cost electricity in no way implicates Xcel as a collaborator in environmental and human-rights abuse.

Xcel is dealing in ill-gotten electricity. Because the victims are Cree Indians whose land and livelihood suffer constant ravaging by the hydro dams, the collaboration is a clear case of environmental racism.

Until very recently, Minnesota ratepayers didn't know their part in promoting vast environmental damage in northern Manitoba, or their part in a violation of the rights of Canadian Crees. Xcel didn't inform us.

However, a number of us ratepayers have recently become aware of our unwitting complicity in this injustice, and we are using proper government channels to extricate ourselves from this offense.

Since May 11, Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice, a Twin Cities grass-roots group, has staged a weekly rally of Witnesses outside the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and passed out leaflets to educate the public about this shameful source of electricity. We've asked other ordinary people to help us persuade Minnesota's public utilities commissioners to deny Xcel further access to this immoral trade with Manitoba Hydro.

Most Minnesotans are not aware that 3 million acres of boreal forest in Manitoba have been flooded (translate: destroyed) by the dams. That's equal to three of our Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildernesses. Some ecologists view the boreal forest as an ecosystem in many ways more important to North America than the Amazon is to South America. Manitoba Hydro has been destroying it for more than 20 years by river diversions and flooding.

On the Cree reservations, the dams have destroyed recently intact hunting and trapping economies. The result is a crisis of mass poverty, hopelessness, despair and suicide among the Cree people.

There is no shortage of electricity suppliers. Cost is not the only factor in purchase decisions, nor should it be. How sound is a purchase based on a policy of seeing no evil in regards to massive environmental and social damage in the northern wilderness?

Fortunately, Minnesotans are resourceful and Xcel has the know-how to be an industry leader if it sets its talented work force to the task. With determination, we can become more energy efficient to conserve all or part of the power we're importing.

Investing now in development of genuinely sustainable energy technologies in Minnesota will build up our own economy. Status quo reliance on presently "cheap" electricity from Manitoba Hydro can cost us in the long run by luring us away from investing in energy production here.

Peterson (e-mail: is founder of Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice.

Grassroots Organizing in the Midwest:
The Pimicikamak Perspective

Presentation by Kenny Miswaggon,
CouncillorPimicikamak Cree Nation Cross Lake, Manitoba

Wisconsin Sociological Association and
Sociologists of Minnesota Joint Meetings

River Falls, Wisconsin
October 13, 2000

Tansi! I bring you greetings from Nitaskinan, 'Our Land,' which is what we call the boreal forests, lakes and rivers which Pimicikamak Crees have inhabited as our traditional lands since time immemorial. You may know it as part of the drainage basin of the Nelson and Churchill Rivers, an area encompassing Alberta, Hudson�s Bay and even including your Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Because these rivers are so powerful, Manitoba Hydro, the utility arm of the Manitoba government, came to Nitaskinan twenty-three years ago, and without our consent, conscripted these lands and re-engineered our fragile environment. Today, Lake Winnipeg is a storage reservoir for the water that Manitoba Hydro releases in the fall and winter to power five generating stations on the Nelson, and 85 percent of the Churchill River is diverted into the Nelson to increase its flow.

We live in a despoiled environment. Our waters now fluctuate seasonally, and even daily. In summers there are conditions of drought and in the winters we have unseasonable slush and hanging ice. Our fish are poisoned by methylmercury contamination, our water is polluted by the constant soil erosion, and the animals we depended upon for food have moved away. It is no secret in Manitoba that an unemployment level of 85 percent has replaced our formerly thriving subsistence economy.

Forty percent of the electricity produced by the Nelson River�s generating stations is sold to Xcel (formerly Northern States Power). Many of you know that Minnesota Power and Public Service Corporation of Wisconsin propose to build a line from Duluth to Wausau to transmit Manitoba Hydro�s cheap electric power.

This is the context in which I appear before you today.

As teachers and students of sociology, you study the grassroots movements that arise to protest injustices of all kinds and to reform policies. Here is what grassroots organizing means for us.

In our ways, an action is first weighed out. When our old people speak, everyone listens and only then will we act.

In 1996 a meeting was organized by members of a circle group in my community. They had learned of the pending fast-tracking of a federal government referendum to be held among our people, to accept the extinguishment of all but a few of the rights granted by the Northern Flood Agreement. This treaty, which we signed in 1977, along with Manitoba Hydro and the governments of Manitoba and Canada, was modeled on the Marshall Plan following World War II. It promised us environmental remediation and economic development. This Northern Flood Agreement -- a social and economic development plan for our people and our region -- has never been implemented.

Our elders immediately thought of astopweswin. In English this means 'prepare for the future' or 'save for future generations.' We know that Nitaskinan is the only form of identification that future generations will have to identify themselves. We understood that we could no longer be beaten up in silence. We decided to tell the world that we choose to live the life of the Crees. We would forgive those who have wronged us, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much that we do not want to keep paying for the injustice done to us.

We realized that it would be helpful to make Manitoba Hydro�s American customers aware of the conditions in Nitaskinan that are associated with the Midwest�s energy use, because Manitoba Hydro plans to construct more hydrodams to double its capacity and therefore, its exports. It was important that we speak up for the environment.

In June 1998, fifty Pimicikamak Crees joined representatives of several concerned Minnesota organizations outside Northern States Power�s Minneapolis headquarters. The chairman of NSP came downstairs and talked with us. We returned home hopeful that Americans would investigate our situation. To date, Xcel has not visited us, but a few people from Wisconsin and Minnesota have.

We were, and are, actively opposing a new contract between NSP and Manitoba Hydro at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, because Manitoba Hydro�s electricity production does not meet your environmental standards. Our message is simple: 1. Unplug Manitoba Hydro because it undermines the Midwest�s ability to develop its own energy alternatives to their fullest potential; 2. Manitoba Hydro�s operations are having a catastrophic impact upon the boreal environment and its indigenous inhabitants; and 3. As the electric industry in the Midwest begins to restructure itself, human rights should be integral to energy policy.

Because grassroots work is about helping people to empower themselves and encouraging involvement, in August of this year, Pimicikamak Cree Nation joined with a leading grassroots group in Wisconsin, Save Our Unique Lands, in a week-long rivers awareness tour. The tour was designed by its organizers to make the proposed transmission routes come alive for people who wanted to testify at public hearings in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Each locale offered opportunities for discussion. At a sportsmen�s club, one activist explained how he had finally come to understand that the 250-mile line he opposed really stretched a thousand miles to Nitaskinan.

Another example occurred on September 27, at Xcel�s annual meeting in St. Paul, when three shareholders, none of whom knew one another, asked the chairman about Manitoba Hydro.

As an elected official and a youth organizer, I recognize that the most powerful way to change the world is to talk with people one by one, one to one. As time-consuming and difficult as this can be at times, we Pimicikamak Crees take hope from the fact that more Americans are asking the same questions to which our people are seeking answers, solutions and redress. We encourage you and your students to learn about this situation. We welcome your investigations and your visits.

Thank you! Ekosani!

Power lines link Minnesota to Manitoba environmental problem

Elaine Klaassen
Pulse (of the Twin Cities)
November 22, 2000, p6

On Thursday, November 30, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to approve or disapprove of Manitoba Hydroelectric Company as a desirable source of renewable energy for Minnesota.

For the past seven months, Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice (MWEJ) has met every Thursday outside the PUC in St. Paul to persuade Minnesotans to discontinue their purchase of electric power from Manitoba Hydro.

Last week the chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake, Manitoba, John Miswagon, joined MWEJ at the PUC, along with Canadian university students, Macalester students, several people who showed up to give support, and a representative of the Mennonite peace and justice committee in Winnipeg. His presence was a reminder that there are human beings at the other end of the transmission lines whose lives are directly and adversely affected by Manitoba Hydro's production of hydroelectricity.

MWEJ believes that Manitoba Hydro power is not renewable because the dams built by their state-owned company have caused, and continue to cause, irreparable damage to the lands and livelihood of aboriginal people. According to Sierra magazine, "Manitoba Hydro has rerouted rivers and damned [sic] lakes in 50,000 square miles of boreal forest. Flooding...has also washed out 3 million acres of traditional Cree land. Minnesota's NSP (now Xcel), Manitoba Hydro's biggest customer, now wants to purchase even more wattage."

Diane Peterson, founder of MWEJ, says, "Because the victims are Cree Indians whose land and livelihood suffer constant ravaging by the hydro dams, the collaboration (between Minnesota and Manitoba Hydro) is a clear case of environmental racism."

Manitoba Hydro and NSP have been doing business for a long time, but only in the last two years has Minnesota begun to find out about the dams in Manitoba. Since 1928, 14 hydroelectric generating dams have been built in northern Manitoba. The five most recent were built between 1972 and 1992, essentially without the consent of the people whose lands and livelihoods would be destroyed. No provision was made to pay them a share of the profits and furthermore the affected communities now have to pay electric bils.

In 1977 Manitoba churches and aboriginal rights groups held an inquiry into the devastation. Out of that inquiry came the Northern Flood Agreement (NFA) which, at least in concept, provided for compensation. By the early 90s, the five affected communities despaired of the NFA being implemented and four of them each agreed to a one-time cash settlement from Manitoba Hydro.

In October, 1998, the remaining band, Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake), voted, instead, to declare itself a self-determining group. They set up their own trust into which they now pay their electric bills, using the money for the needs of the community. A unique governance system, blending traditional, and modern ideas, has been in place for almost four years. It consists of four councils -- women, youth, elders and a general council with representatives from the other three. MIswagon was elected chief a year and a half ago. The community averages an 88 percent voter turnout.

Peterson of MWEJ says Cross Lake's decisoin to stand alone is "for the long haul. They're doing if for the welfare and future of their children.They're spiritually right to maintain their tribal dignity and it's costing them dearly."

Ed Legge, representing Xcel Energy, said NSP became aware of the situation in northern Manitoba in the summer of 1998 when Pimicikamak Cree demonstrated at NSP. Since then, NSP has conducted an investigation. Based on their findings, Xcel strongly believes the relationship between Manitoba Hydro and the affected Cree bands is a Canadian problem, not ours. The human rights issue is negligible because four of the affected communities have settled with Manitoba Hydro and two of them are even business partners on future dam projects.

Legge said Manitoba Hydro absolutely does not deny the damage that was done. But they know nothing can be reversed and they believe they've done their best to resolve the situation.

Legge continued to explain that Xcel's first concern is its customers. If Xcel withdrew their contracts, nothing would change in Canada, it wouldn't be helpful to anyone.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation supporters say that if Minnesota unplugged from Manitoba Hydro, it would be helpful, not only to Cross Lake, but to the other four bands as well.

MWEJ encourages Minnesota to practice conservation and look for alternative sources of energy; Minnesota's 500 businesses in the renewable energy industry jobs are a viable segment of our economy that should be cultivated. MWEJ is convinced better options can be found.

The PUC will hold a public meeting Thursday, November 30, from 9 a.m. until noon. Comments may be addressed to: Gregory Scott, chair, Minnesota Public Utilties Commission, 121 Seventh Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul, MN 55101,

For more information about Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice (MWEJ), call 651-255-6945 or look at



Xcel deal with Manitoba Hydro is allowed-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Minnesota asked by tribe to block it on ecosystem concerns

Dennis Lien Staff Writer
Pioneer Press, St. Paul
December 1, 2000

A broad-based effort to persuade the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to pull the plug on a controversial hydropower arrangement with a Canadian utility fell through Thursday.

The commission approved Xcel Energy's selection of three companies to help supply power to it in coming years and rejected all requests to hold off on endorsing a final deal with one of them, Manitoba Hydro, until an investigation is undertaken of the socioeconomic costs of hydroelectric plants.

The Pimicikamak Cree Nation and several environmental organizations argued that Manitoba Hydro's system of dams has caused catastrophic damage to the ecosystem north of Lake Winnipeg and to band members beset with high unemployment, alcoholism, and lost traditions. They also questioned whether Manitoba Hydro was supplying Xcel and Minnesota consumers with the "clean energy" it had advertised.

But the commission didn't buy the argument, concluding that any problems with a 1977 deal involving Manitoba Hydro and five Cree bands, including the Pimicikamak should be worked out in Canada and not thrown into the commission's lap.

Arguing that the Pimicikamak Cree had overstated the damage caused by fluctuating water levels, Jerry Primrose, chief of the Cree of Nelson House, made an impassioned plea to allow his band to continue seeking the economic self-sufficiency that Manitoba Hydro can provide. "Think of me and my people when you turn the light switch on," Primrose said.

Thursday's decision allows Xcel to continue to pursue a contract with Manitoba Hydro for 500 megawatts of power from 2005 to 2015. Final contracts with that utility, Black Hills Corp., and Northern Alternative Energy could be signed early next year.

In addition, Commissioner Ed Garvey proposed that commissioners update an existing system of assessing the social, economic, and environmental costs of different energy generation sources. Without such a path, he said, it will become increasingly difficult for the commission to make informed decisions on various energy sources as power demands increase.

Dennis Lien can be reached at or (651) 228-5588.


Two shareholders file environmental resolution-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
to Xcel Energy board

Utility Environment Report
December 1, 2000, p14

A resolution recommending that Xcel Energy's board of directors employ renewable energy resources that are without undue adverse impacts on the environment and on the Pimicikamak Cree Nation (PCN) of Manitoba, Canada, has been filed by utility shareholders.

Under Security and Exchange Commission rules, a shareholder submitting a proposal must own at least $2,000 of stock or 1% of the company's securities for at least one year and during pendency of the proposal. Linda Sourbis, a shareholder from Minneapolis, meets that requirement, an Xcel spokesman confirmed. Shareholder Lea Foushee has co-signed the resolution.

Sourbis said she has seen photos of the environmental damage to Pimicikamak Cree Nation lands stemming from the operations of Manitoba Hydro. Xcel currently has a 500 MW contract with the Canadian utility that expires in 2005; it is seeking Minnesota Public Utilities Commission authorization to extend the agreement.

The resolution states that Xcel is required by law to give preference to renewable resources and that Manitoba Hydro is the largest component in the utility's renewables portfolio. In addition, a portion of Manitoba Hydro's electric supply comes from fossil fuels, including a coal plant without scrubbers.

It also states that the traditional lands and burial grounds of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation and other indigenous peoples have been flooded or in other ways rendered inaccessible and their means of livelihood damaged and food supplies poisoned.

"As shareholders and ratepayers, we're profiting from human and environmental exploitation," Sourbis said in a press statement accompanying the resolution.

Despite the controversy that Xcel's proposed contract renewal effort has generated, the utility appears unwilling to back down and will continue to press for PUC approval. Xcel officials see the environmental dispute to be a Canadian matter that must be resolved by Canadians.

An Xcel Energy spokeswoman said the company was in formal receipt of the resolution. It is being reviewed to determine if it qualifies under federal rules for inclusion in the utility's next proxy statement. Xcel Energy's next annual meeting is in April 2001.

A corporation receiving such a proposal can reject it if it provides reasons to the SEC. A proposal can legitimately be excluded because it is improper under state law, violates proxy rules, reflects a personal grievance or special interest, is not relevant, and for other reasons.




Pages: Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Pages: Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Transmission line - Updates: 2001.
2000: Jan.-May, June-July, Aug.- Oct., Nov.-Dec.. 1999
Wisconsin's Rural Rebellion
Model Resolution on proposed Transmission Lines
Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
Hydroelectric Dams - Updates: 2001. 2000: Jan.-Mar., Apr.-July,
Aug.- Dec.. 1999

Midwest Treaty Network Contents