The Experimental Lakes Area consists of 58 lakes and their watersheds in northern Ontario and is dedicated to whole-ecosystem research.
It is seen as a world-class institution for understanding global threats to freshwater lakes and has conducted scientific investigations ranging from the impacts of chemical contamination (including phosphorus, sulphur oxide, and mercury pollution) to the effects of climate change on lakes.
The ELA project – which consists of laboratory buildings, residences, workshops and 17 staff, including 4 Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists – utilizes a body of lakes in northern Ontario about 250 kilometres east of Winnipeg, has a facility in Kenora, and is based at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg.
The annual operating budget to run the ELA is $600,000, half of which is covered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the other half by Environment Canada. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans provides an additional $1.5 million to cover salaries.
It is understood that this is a small investment that in return provides extremely valuable research to protect our freshwater heritage.
In May 2012, the Harper government announced that it would close the ELA by April 2013 as a cost-cutting measure. This despite the ELA’s small annual budget and the estimated $15-million cost to the federal government to remediate the waterways around the research facilities upon their closure.
Upon the news of the end of the ELA, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “The Harper government is waging war on Canada’s freshwater. We don’t start with a strong record. Our national water laws are out-dated, we don’t properly enforce the ones we have and we chronically under-fund source water and watershed protection. And consecutive governments refuse to consider the effect on freshwater when creating economic, industrial, energy or trade policies. Yet the Harper government appears intent on systematically dismantling the few protections that have been put in place at the federal level to protect our freshwater heritage.”
Barlow added, “Governments and communities around the world are moving to protect their precious water systems to ensure they will be here for future generations. What a travesty Stephen Harper has decided to sacrifice our freshwater heritage in order to please his industry friends. We will all live to regret this.”
Barlow also spoke at the ‘Death of Evidence’ rally on Parliament Hill this past July in which the closure of the ELA was decried.
At that rally, Barlow said, “The experimental lakes area is a world-class, living, outdoor laboratory where scientists have studied how to protect freshwater for decades. The Harper government is shaming Canadians in the eyes of the world and killing a major gift to water science at the very moment we are really beginning to understand the depth of the global water crisis.”
The Council of Canadians continues to oppose the Harper government’s intention to close the Experimental Lakes Area and will be working with friends and allies in the months remaining before April 2013 to save this scientific safeguard for freshwater lakes.
Save Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area, http://saveela.org