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ELA staying open

The Ontario government has signed a deal that will keep the Experimental Lakes Area open in 2014.
An aerial view of a field station is shown in a handout photo. A world-famous research area in northwestern Ontario will remain open thanks to agreements between the provincial and federal governments and the Manitoba-based group that runs the facility. (The Canadian Press/HO- International Institute for Sustainable Development)

The Ontario government has signed a deal that will keep the Experimental Lakes Area open in 2014.

The province on Tuesday announced it had reached an agreement with the International Institute for Sustainable Development that will allow scientists to continue a number of vital research projects.

Among the research being conducted are the exploration of ecological risks associated with nanomaterials released into the environment and monitoring lake recovery from mercury, a common emission from coal plants.

Established in 1968 about 50 kilometres southeast of Kenora, the ELA was slated for closure by the federal Conservatives before Ontario stepped up last year to save the facility, committing at least $2 million a year to keep it open.

“The Experimental Lakes Area is a truly significant location in the Northwest that continues to produce vital scientific and academic research. I’m extremely pleased that our government has taken a lead role to keep the facility operational and allow for important research to continue,” said Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle in a release issued by the province.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Winnipeg-based research organization that has been running the facility, began negotiations with the federal and Ontario governments in late 2012 to try to keep it open.

Under agreements reached among the three parties, management of the 58-lake facility will transfer from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to Ontario, effective immediately.

One of the only whole-lake laboratories available in the world, the Experimental Lake Area has attracted scientists studying the impacts of stressors and pollutants from human activity and industrial development on freshwater lakes, streams and surrounding watersheds.

That research has helped lead to environmental legislation in Canada and worldwide. In the 1970s research at the facility identified that acid rain could lead to the death of freshwater fish.

With files from The Canadian Press


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