Experimental Lakes Area, world-famous research spot, saved with funding from Ontario, Manitoba

·National Affairs Contributor
Experimental Lakes Area, world-famous research spot, saved with funding from Ontario, Manitoba

A northwestern Ontario region that's an international mecca for environmental research will remain accessible to scientists despite federal funding cuts.

The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is renowned as a "natural laboratory" for studying the impact of pollution and climate change on whole ecosystems.

But the federal government last year announced it was closing the site as part of its budget-cutting operation. The decision triggered a major backlash from the scientific community.

[ Related: Experimental Lakes Area cuts leave scientists tongue-lashing Canada ]

The last official day of operation of the research facility near Kenora, Ont., was to be Sept. 1, unless someone came to the rescue with funding.

The Globe and Mail reported Monday that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced an interim agreement to keep the ELA operating. The provincial government is promising $2 million a year.

Scientists will be allowed to work in the ELA this fall while final details of a deal are reached, the Globe said.

“I am thrilled that a decision has been reached to keep Experimental Lakes Area open,” Wynne, who was in Kenora for the announcement, said in a statement, according to the Globe.

“The research performed here provides invaluable knowledge about climate change and helps protect freshwater systems around the world. I want to thank all parties for working together to help make Ontario a world-class destination for scientific research.”

Ontario began talks with Ottawa and the government of Manitoba last spring to keep the ELA open.

[ Related: Ontario pledges $2M annually to keep Experimental Lakes research area open ]

The plan calls for the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development to take responsibility for operating the ELA with the help of $900,000 in funding over six years from the Manitoba government, according to CBC News.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans will continue running the 27,000-hectare facility until the final agreement is in place but will no longer participate in research, the Globe said.

“It’s an interim measure and what we are all looking for is a permanent home and we are really optimistic,” institute president Scott Vaughan told the Globe.

The ELA has been operating for about 40 years. Scientists flocked to the remote area because its 58 lakes have experienced no direct impact from human activity, allowing researchers a clean slate to study the effects of pollutants on freshwater resources.