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Grand Rapids Deal
Upstream of the Grand Rapids Dam, debris from flooded and eroding lands litters shoreline. (Photo courtesy of Ellen Cook.)
Last fall, Manitoba Hydro signed a multi-million dollar, 50-year deal with Misipawistik Cree Nation (formerly Grand Rapids First Nation). In exchange for the money, Misipawistik agrees to support Manitoba Hydro's application to renew its 50-year-old licence for the Grand Rapids Dam. That licence expires in 2015.
Earlier, Misipawistik had signaled its intent to fight licence renewal.
The agreement was kept quiet until February, 2012 when it hit the press:
– Hydro signs $58-M deal with First Nation
– Hydro deal raises questions
– Manitoba Hydro inks deal with First Nation
– Criticism of Hydro disappoints
– Draft Agreement (NOTE: This is an unsigned, undated draft. The numbers in this draft correspond with a payment schedule handed out in the community, and no one has disputed these numbers, but it is not known if this draft is the same as the final, ratified version of the deal. Hydro has yet to provide the final agreement.)
– Public accountability: Manitoba Hydro attempted to keep this agreement out of the public spotlight, refusing a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the deal.
Will Manitoba Hydro and the provincial government commit to transparent dealings and robust public debate on hydro issues? Will decisions be made on the upper floors of hydro headquarters or in the public square?
– Straight facts please: Manitoba Hydro says the deal will cost ratepayers $23 million. Community members were told the deal is worth $104 million (a number also reported by CBC). How can the same deal be worth $23 million or $104 million depending on whether one is defending it to ratepayers or trying to convince people to vote for it?
The $23-million figure comes from Hydro. They say they have put aside $23 million now and interest on that money will cover costs of the agreement.
The $104 million figure includes the annual payments adjusted for inflation as well as interest accrued over the next 50 years. One could compare this inclusion of interest to a scenario in which the provincial government would compensate a flood victim for $200,000, then require the recipient to put 10 percent of that money in a trust account for 50 years, and then call the settlement a $400,000 settlement because after 50 years the 10 percent set aside would add up to $200,000.
According to the agreement (see link above), it is clear that the deal is worth $51.6 million in 2011 dollars over the lifetime of the agreement:
Total: $51.6 million in 2011 dollars
– The disappearing $10 million: The draft agreement obtained by the Task Force and the payment schedule distributed in the community indicate that the deal includes a lump sum payment of $10 million upon expiry of the agreement in 2061. This payment is not indexed to inflation (unlike the annual payments included in the deal, which increase each year according to inflation). Using projections included in the payment schedule, by 2016, this $10 million will only be worth the equivalent of $3.6 million today.
– Previous Misipawistik demands: In an article published in 2011, former Misipawistik chief Ovide Mercredi commented on the dam and renewal of its 50-year licence:
"In reference to the water flowing through that dam, Mercredi’s message to the province is simple: 'That’s not your water, it belongs to our people and we want a share of that money.' The dam’s 50-year provincial licence expires in 2015 and Mercredi wants licence renewal to be contingent on public acknowledgement of the harm, increased mitigation of damages, and a revenue-sharing agreement."
– Chemawawin: It is not clear whether Chemawawin Cree Nation – a community that was relocated as a result of the 115,700 hectares of land flooded by the Grand Rapids Dam – has also reached a similar agreement.
– Review of how the dam manipulates water levels: In a 1991 agreement between Hydro and Misipawistik – then Grand Rapids First Nation – the parties established a joint Water Regime Review committee to look at how the dam is operated in relation to water levels and flows. It was to consider "proposed significant modifications to the Project, alterations of the Water Regime, [and] applications to significantly amend the License."
The current agreement requires Misipawistik to support renewal of the licence with no amendments to the operating conditions.
For more information contact Will Braun.