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New West Daily Roundup for Jan. 4, 2017

Today in New West news: bill introduced to change definition of consent in Montana rape laws, Native American site agency enters Snake River dam debate, and Longmont tech company severs $48M Hong Kong deal.

According to the Missoulian, a new bill has been introduced by state Senator Diane Sands (D-Missoula) that would change the definition of consent in Montana’s rape laws. Specifically, the bill would remove language concerning “a requirement of force,” which Sands feels is too restrictive when it comes to pursuing sexual assault cases. From the Missoulian:

“We want people to know very clearly what is required for consensual sexual relationships and to help people, both men and women, avoid getting into situations that could cost someone their freedom,” Sands said.

She added that through reaching out to prosecutors around the state, the interim committee found obstacles to prosecute cases “which are clearly a sexual assault but do not comply with the archaic provisions of the current sexual assault law.”

Many people who are sexually assaulted freeze instead of fighting back, Sands said. “It’s a trauma-based response hoping either the assault will go away or at least they won’t get further hurt or killed. Force in the traditional sense most people understand it is not usually present.”

Current state law says that a sex act is without consent if “the victim is compelled to submit by force.” The bill removes that text and instead says “an expression of lack of consent through words or conduct means there is no consent or that the consent has been withdrawn.”

Sands stressed the changes do not alter the burden of requirement of proof to convince a jury a rape occurred; but change the factors that allow for a prosecution of rape.

The bill also creates the crime of aggravated sexual assault, which would include rape committed with force. That crime would carry a more severe sentence of from 10-100 years in prison and fines of up to $50,000. Currently the minimum a person convicted of sexual intercourse without consent in Montana could serve is two years if the victim is over the age of 16.

Over in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, we’ve been following developments in the debate over whether to breach dams along the Snake River and elsewhere. After U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration hadn’t adequately considered their dams’ impact on the river’s salmon runs, conservationists and others seized on the ruling as new momentum in a decades-long debate.

Indeed, it’s a debate that draws together many parties and stakeholders; besides environmental and salmon groups, in opposition to farmers who rely on the dams for irrigation purposes, the debate draws in area tribes—all of whom view salmon as a necessary resource and vital part of their cultures. And now, according to the Idaho Business Review, tribes have another stake to discuss in whether to breach dams in the region. Specifically, per the Review, how breaching dams along the Snake River will impact some thousandfold cultural sites in the basin:

A little-known federal program that avoids publicizing its accomplishments to protect from looters the thousands of Native American sites it’s tasked with managing has been caught up in a big net.

The Federal Columbia River System Cultural Resources Program tracks some 4,000 historical sites that also include homesteads and missions in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Now it’s contributing information as authorities prepare a court-ordered environmental impact statement concerning struggling salmon and the operation of 14 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin.

A federal judge urged officials to consider breaching four of those dams on the Snake River.

“Because of the scale of the EIS, there’s no practical way for us, even if we wanted to, to provide a map of each and every site that we consider,” said Sean Hess, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Region archaeologist. “There are some important sites out there that we don’t talk about a lot because of concerns about what would happen because of vandalism.”

Fish survival, hydropower, irrigation and navigation get the most attention and will be components in the environmental review due out in 2021. But at more than a dozen public meetings in the four states to collect feedback, the cultural resources program has equal billing. Comments are being accepted through Jan. 17.

The review process is being conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, an umbrella law that covers the well-known Endangered Species Act. Thirteen species of salmon and steelhead on the Columbia and Snake rivers have been listed as federally protected species over the past 25 years.

But NEPA also requires equal weight be given to other laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, which is where the cultural resources program comes in. Among the 4,000 sites are fishing and hunting processing areas, ancestral village areas and tribal corridors.


“If we’re breaching dams, it would definitely change how we manage resources,” said Gail Celmer, an archaeologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon ordered the environmental review in May after finding that a massive habitat restoration effort to offset the damage that dams in the Columbia River Basin pose to Northwest salmon runs was failing.

Salmon and steelhead runs are a fraction of what they were before modern settlement. Of the salmon and steelhead that now return to spawn each year, experts say, about 70 to 90 percent originate in hatcheries.

Those opposed to breaching the Snake River dams to restore salmon runs say the dams are an important part of the regional economy, providing irrigation, hydropower and shipping benefits.

Meanwhile, several tribes said they are better able to take part in the review process than they once were.

“Tribes have not had much opportunity to participate in these things because they didn’t have professional staff or trained people,” said Guy Moura of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state, noting the tribe employed four people in its cultural resources program in 1992 but now has 38. “With growth in size, there also came the evolution of what was being done.”

Finally, down in Colorado, according to the Boulder Daily Camera, Longmont-based UQM Technologies has called off a $48 million deal with Hong Kong-based Hybrid Kinetic Group, which would have seen 58 percent of UQM go overseas. Per UQM’s president and CEO Joe Mitchell, shareholders voiced concern over the proposal and how it would affect voting control. From the Camera:

“We have cash and an asset base to meet our anticipated liquidity needs for the near future,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Pending orders from key customers will help to fill our pipeline over the next several months. We have already re-engaged our investment banking advisor BDA Partners, and with the activity we have recently seen in the electric vehicle market, we are optimistic that we will be able to secure partnership opportunities to execute on our global strategy to obtain volume production contracts leading to increased revenue flow and profitability.”

Prior to cancelling the HKG deal, UQM officials said they planned to remain in Longmont for at least three years and that they would remain there even if a new partner must be sought.

UQM last month began ramping up production units for its Asian customers. Tuesday afternoon Chief Financial Officer David Rosenthal said that ramp-up would continue and would likely require more hiring.

UQM makes high-efficiency electric motors, generators and fuel cell compressors for commercial transportation, marine, military and industrial markets, with an emphasis on electric, hybrid electric and fuel-cell electric vehicles.

Rosenthal added they are still looking for a Chinese partner, citing the country’s large electric vehicle market.

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