Experimental Lakes Area to get boost from federal government

A lake part of the Experimental Lakes Area Reservoir Project is pictured in an undated photo.
A lake part of the Experimental Lakes Area Reservoir Project is pictured in an undated photo. Experimental Lakes Area handout / The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is expected to reinvest in a world-class freshwater research station in northwestern Ontario that was once in danger of shutting down.

The announcement — expected to involve significant funding for the Experimental Lakes Area research facility, about 50 kilometres southeast of Kenora, Ont. — marks another move by the Liberals to reverse controversial decisions made by the previous Conservative government.

The research facility was destined for the chopping block in 2012 when the Conservatives said they could save $2 million a year in operating costs by shutting it down.

READ MORE: Scientists decry lost freshwater research

The plan raised the ire of scientists from around North America, who had been coming to the facility since 1968 to conduct research on everything from acid rain and climate change to algae blooms and mercury pollution, helping to inform environmental legislation in Canada and around the world.

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There were also questions about whether the clean-up costs would vastly outweigh the savings.

The facility was saved when the Ontario government and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a Winnipeg-based research organization, signed agreements to take over control of the facility from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2014.

READ MORE: Experimental Lakes deal allows research to go on as transfer talks continue

Since then, they’ve been footing most of the bill.

Sumeep Bath, a spokesman for the IISD Experimental Lakes Area, said in an email Tuesday the facility has an annual budget of $2.7 million.

The Ontario government currently contributes $2 million per year, while another $250,000 comes from the fisheries department.

READ MORE: Ontario, Manitoba pledge millions to keep Experimental Lakes Area open

The remaining $450,000 comes from private sources.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister will join Liberal MP Bob Nault in Kenora, Ont. for the funding announcement on Wednesday.

The Liberals promised during the election campaign to restore $1.5 million in annual federal funding for freshwater research and make new investments in the facility.

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The federal government also mentioned their commitment in the 2016 budget, as part of $197.1 million over five years in new funding for the fisheries department.

“Funding will support new and expanded research activities that will promote the health of fish stocks and sustainable aquaculture, enable more comprehensive monitoring of the impacts of aquatic pollution, and enhance our knowledge of freshwater ecosystems,” said the Mar. 22 federal budget.