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

The remote region of 58 pristine lakes has been used since the late 1960s for groundbreaking freshwater studies. File / Getty Images

OTTAWA – The federal government has signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow science to continue this summer at a world-famous freshwater research area in northwestern Ontario.

The Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development has agreed to be the third-party operator of the Experimental Lakes Area, which includes 58 lakes that have been used since 1968 for studies on how toxins affect the environment.

The MOU between the institute and Fisheries and Oceans Canada allows ongoing, long-term studies to continue this year while negotiations on the final fate of the research facility continue.

The Harper government announced in the 2012 budget that it was closing the facility for a modest savings of $2 million a year, prompting howls of outrage from the Canadian and international scientific community.

Those complaints were compounded when the government said no work would be permitted at the site this season while a transfer agreement was negotiated, disrupting long-term data sets that scientists said were critical to their work.

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced last month that the province would provide “operating support” for the facility but negotiations between Ottawa and the province continue.

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