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Stalemate dogs Hydro settlement
Winnipeg Sun, Thursday, February 10, 2000

By ROBERT WILLIAMS, STAFF REPORTER   It will take more than $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.

THWARTED

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.