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Concerns arise regarding Manitoba Hydro and South Indian Lake

Leslie Dysart, the CEO of the Community Association of South Indian Lake (CASIL), has a problem with Manitoba Hydro and what he calls the lack of work being done in South Indian Lake area.

Leslie Dysart, the CEO of the Community Association of South Indian Lake (CASIL), has a problem with Manitoba Hydro and what he calls the lack of work being done in South Indian Lake area. “Hydro is currently taking a position where they don’t address the needs brought up by the people they impact, at least in the community of South Indian Lake, when it comes to the environmental and economical issues we’ve brought up with them.”

Dysart says there’s dozen of concerns, but in the past two years it’s been about foreign debris in the lakes, and the 1992 agreement Manitoba Hydro signed with the community not being followed.

But Scott Powell, Manitoba Hydro’s public affairs manager, says Dysart is incorrect. “That simply isn’t true. The agreement is being followed. We work with chief and council, the elected officials of South Indian Lake, the issues he has raised are in fact being dealt with in a timely manner. Does that mean we respond to every single email from this individual? Not necessarily, but every issue being raised is being dealt with.”

Dysart brought his concerns forward following the May 29 Nickel Belt News article “Manitoba Hydro celebrates aboriginal awareness week.” What caught the attention was a quote from Mark Sweeny, manager of the Crown corporation’s community relations department, which said: “One reason I really enjoy working for Manitoba Hydro is our ongoing commitment in strengthening relations with the very people that are affected by our actions.” Dysart says that’s hypocritical since Sweeny doesn’t reply to his personal emails. “Five days before the quote was made and I contacted [Mark Sweeny] directly and he still hasn’t acknowledged me.”

Powell says Manitoba Hydro tries to reply to all emails in a timely fashion, but that isn’t always possible. He continued by saying he believes Manitoba Hydro has a great relationship with the community and their leaders. “We work with the elected chief and council of the community to resolve any outstanding issues, and in fact community leadership co-ordinates many of the programs like debris cleanup and safe ice trails. We think that’s a great step forward for our relationship with South Indian Lake, so we’re actually really pleased, and we think we have a good relationship with the community.”

Dysart feels that from 2003-2013 the relationship with Manitoba Hydro was open and transparent, that talks happened with fishers and trappers as well as CASIL, but he says that stopped. “We have a very clear black-and-white contract with them, which they have potentially breached, and they don’t even want to entertain the discussion.”

Dysart feels that Manitoba Hydro has been ignoring the issues and their priority is selling electricity to the United States, and wishes the company would fulfill their obligations and agreements, which Powell says they are.

The final concern Dysart has involves the fishery in the community and the water levels. “The fishery in the community is in a total collapse because of Manitoba Hydro and their operation. Our fishery used to be the second largest in North America, it’s in total collapse now. Our production has dropped by 95 per cent. We had 163 fisherman in 1996, and last year we only had 34.”

Dysart says there are trail markers that haven’t been removed from Manitoba Hydro impacted waterways in the South Indian Lake resource area. Dysart worries if these markers are not cleaned up they will – and have already – become floating debris that damages nets and equipment and can cause damage to motors.

Powell says Manitoba Hydro is working on these issues and will complete them in a timely fashion.

The Nickel Belt News contacted Chief Chris Baker regarding the relationship between South Indian Lake and Manitoba Hydro but calls were not returned by press time.