Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

EPC votes today on joining call to save ELA

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WINNIPEG will decide today whether to join a campaign to urge the federal government to keep a freshwater-research facility open.

This morning, council's executive policy committee will vote on a motion that calls on Winnipeg to ask the federal government to support the Experimental Lakes Area until a source of funding to continue its research is found.

River Heights Coun. John Orlikow said other municipalities, including Kenora, have asked the federal government to find another source of funding for the program before it is discontinued. He said the ELA has produced scientific research and evidence that has helped Winnipeg develop policies and is a valuable asset.

The ELA has allowed scientists to conduct experiments on 58 lakes in northwestern Ontario, near Kenora, for more than four decades. It's the only research program of its kind and has helped inform public policy in areas including phosphorus removal for Lake Winnipeg.

The federal government plans to cut the ELA's $2-million operating budget next April. Ottawa has offered to find another organization to fund it, but many think the program will close next spring.

"All we're asking is just don't close it before you get a buyer," said Orlikow, who authored the ELA motion that was approved by the city centre community committee earlier this month. "If the City of Winnipeg says we want to save the ELA, that will have a positive impact."

Orlikow's call for action comes the day after freshwater scientists and water advocates were in Winnipeg to denounce the cuts to the research program.

On Tuesday, University of Alberta researcher David Schindler and water advocate Maude Barlow spoke out alongside the Coalition to Save the ELA to highlight the importance of freshwater research.

Schindler said the ELA helped pave the way on research for how Lake Winnipeg could be restored and led to policies that focus on phosphorus removal. The program's long-term research on acid rain led to increased restrictions on sulfur emissions in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, he said, and focused on other critical areas such as mercury poisoning.

Schindler said the ELA has always researched ahead so policy can be based on sound science and not a whim.

He said the federal government has responded to pleas to not shut down the ELA with "thundering silence." Schindler said he doesn't care whether the research is publicly or privately funded, as long as it continues and is transparent to the public. "Science underpins so many of our decisions," he said.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2012 B1

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