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Great Lakes Article:

Hydro workers unable to leave
Winnipeg Free Press
By Patti Edgar
06/27/03


Members of a northern reserve stopped two Manitoba Hydro
employees from flying out of their community Wednesday
during a dispute over $3 million in unpaid power bills.
The workers had pulled out eight hydro meters on the
Pukatawagan reserve when band members stopped them and
demanded they re-install the meters, said chief Pascall
Bighetty.

"The people called me in distress," said Bighetty, who was
on his way to Winnipeg that day. "They were afraid of losing
their food -- their meat and their fish -- especially the
elders."

The chief said many members of the community have stopped
paying their hydro bills because the band is negotiating a
compensation deal with Manitoba Hydro and hopes the debts
will eventually be wiped out.

The negotiations revolve around a hydro development on the
Laurie River that dates back 50 years. Manitoba Hydro bought
the development from a mining company in the 1980s.

The hydro employees detained Wednesday replaced the meters
and flew out of the reserve. The band has agreed that
members will keep monthly accounts paid up starting this
July while they work out a repayment plan for the debt, said
Manitoba Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider.

"There are discussions under way with respect to
compensation from the Laurie River plants," he said. "But
from our perspective the magnitude of any compensation is
much below what's owed in their outstanding accounts and we
wanted to make sure the chief had that firmly in mind."

Schneider added that the company had repeatedly warned the
community members to pay their bills. The Mathias Colomb
Cree Nation of Pukatawagan lies 217 km west of Thompson.

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