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City to ask Ottawa not to shut down ELA

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Winnipeg will urge the federal government not to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area until a funding source to continue its research is found.

This morning, council's executive policy committee voted in favour of writing a letter to the federal government not to close the freshwater research program until they find a funding source. Mayor Sam Katz said everyone should be concerned about lakes and rivers, and he will write a letter in the coming days to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Environment Minister Peter Kent and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield on behalf of the city.

"I do believe it's important to keep the research going," Katz said following EPC this morning.

The ELA is a unique program which allows scientists to conduct experiments on 58 lakes in northwestern Ontario near Kenora. Last May, Ottawa announced it will cut the $2-million operating budget for ELA as of April 2013 and either sell the program or close it. Scientists around the world have decried the cuts, claiming the ELA is the only research facility of its kind and has helped lead to public policy in critical areas including acid rain, mercury poisoning and phosphorus buildup.

River Heights Coun. John Orlikow, who proposed the city ask the federal government not to close the freshwater research program until another funding source is found, said Lake Winnipeg is under threat by increasing algae blooms and research from the ELA is needed to find a solution. He said 18 townships and municipalities, including Thunder Bay, Dryden and Kenora, have pushed for the research program to remain open.

Katz said research from the ELA has shown that removing phoshporus from wastewater is key and removing nitrogen can do more harm than good. He said he's glad the federal government is currently involved in serious negotiations with the private sector to find a third party to continue funding freshwater research.

History

Updated on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 11:58 AM CST: updates with more info

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