Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
The province is stepping up to the plate to save the Experimental Lakes Area. The Liberal government announced Wednesday that it will provide funding to keep the ELA running this year, and work with the federal and Manitoba governments, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and other partners on an agreement to ensure the future of the world-renowned freshwater research facility east of Kenora.
“What is special about the ELA is that it takes research out of the lab and right into the environment — so the ELA presents a rare opportunity for research, perhaps unique in the world,” said IISD president and CEO Scott Vaughan.
Kenora MP Greg Rickford, who has taken heat over the federal funding cuts for the ELA, said Wednesday that “we have been waiting for Ontario, as the owner of the lands, to play an active role in the transfer of the ELA (to a new operator).
“That’s great news.
“In the meantime, we have been involved in leading negotiations with the prospective operators, and we’re hopeful an agreement can be reached and welcome Ontario taking an active role,” Rickford said. Ottawa cut funding to the ELA research facility on March 31 and blocked researchers, even those with funding from other parties, to work there.
Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield said in a statement that the federal government has been leading negotiations with third parties for several months in a search for a new operator for the ELA.
Discussions with potential third party operators started in May 2012. The IISD emerged as a potential operator last October.
Since then, negotiations with the IISD have been extensive, says Fisheries and Oceans.
Details about how much the province will contribute to keep the 44-year-old facility open “are still being confirmed among the partners,” a government spokesperson said.
It reportedly costs about $2 million annually to keep the research facility operating.
Since 1968, the ELA has provided a whole-lake laboratory for researchers who have studied specific pollutants on aquatic ecosystems, including the environmental effects of acid rain, phosphorous and other pollutants.
With new pressures like climate change, and poorly understood emerging environmental contaminants such as chromite, nanoparticles and endocrine disrupters, the logic for a research station like ELA is strong, the IISD says.
With its head office in Winnipeg, the IISD champions sustainable development around the world through innovation, partnerships, research and communications.