Toronto, ON – The Ontario government says it will commit up to $2 million a year to keep the famed Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) open. The ELA is the only fresh water research facility of its kind in the world. The announcement was made by Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s premier.
An agreement between Ontario, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the federal government will keep the facility open while Ontario and the IISD finalize a long-term agreement. And in a separate agreement, Manitoba’s provincial government is providing the IISD with $6 million in funding over six years that includes $900,000 for freshwater research and technology at the ELA.
The ELA was established in 1968 and is approximately 50 km southeast of Kenora, in the Lake of the Woods watershed. Scientists working there have provided decades of important research, including studies in the 1970s showing that acid rain could lead to freshwater fish deaths. Then in May 2012, the federal government announced that the facility was to be shut down as of March 2013. Scientists around the world protested the decision with activities that included a mock funeral on Parliament Hill to mourn the ‘death’ of evidence.
Speaking on behalf of Canada’s aquatic science community, president of the Society of Canadian Limnologists, and professor of environmental toxicology the University of Ottawa, Dr. Jules Blais said that “Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area is the only research facility in the world where lakes have been set aside to conduct long-term experiments to see how entire ecosystems respond to pollutants and climate change. The Canadian freshwater science community welcomes the leadership shown recently by the IISD and Premier Wynne in supporting the ELA during this difficult transition period.”
The structure of the new Experimental Lakes Area has yet to be defined, and the group cautions that the agreement is still just a temporary fix, but Blais said Canada’s aquatic science community aims to ensure the facility will continue its tradition of doing research in the public interest. “An independent Technical Advisory Committee consisting of scientists from academia, government, and industry should be established to set research priorities and define the research agenda at ELA”, he added.