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'Enormous benefits' in ELA research as Manitoba, Ontario commit interim funding

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Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said Monday he's hopeful a final deal to transfer responsibility of the Experimental Lakes Area to the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development will be forthcoming in about half a year.

But in the meantime, Manitoba and Ontario have stepped forward with interim funding as part of their plan to keep the world-renowned water research facility open until a final arrangement materializes.

Selinger and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne jointly announced Monday their separate funding plans for the ELA in Kenora.

"Clean water is a big part of our future," Selinger told the Free Press, adding research conducted at the ELA has had "enormous benefits" for the science community in general and would continue to do so in the future.

"Potentially the benefits of this research get shared around the world."

The remote region has been used since 1968 for fundamental freshwater studies.

Manitoba's pledge to the IISD is a funding deal worth more than $6 million over five years, with $900,000 dedicated toward research and technological advancements at the ELA.

Wynne's plan involves Ontario spending $2 million a year to keep the ELA open on an interim basis as a long-term deal over its future gets hammered out.

Ottawa announced last year that it was closing the area to save $2 million annually.

Arriving at a final deal involves the federal government's fisheries ministry negotiating what to do about infrastructure and any cleanup of past experiments at the site, which is comprised of 58 small freshwater lakes and drainages.

"That's one of the final hurdles," Selinger said. He was optimistic the collaborative approach to the ELA's future would reap benefits and result in a final deal in six to seven month's time.

"Everybody's talking now," he said.

The transitional arrangement between the three parties means that fish and water monitoring of the lakes will continue to the end of the 2013 field season. It also means that operational and scientific knowledge will be effectively passed on to the IISD, Wynne said in a statement.

"Today is a good day for science," IISD president Scott Vaughan said.

"We are pleased to have reached an interim agreement that ensures the important scientific research at the Experimental Lakes Area will continue to inform Canada and the world and will continue to provide valuable scientific knowledge critical to manage freshwater resources in a sustainable way."

Wynne, meanwhile, said the investment would help make Ontario a world-class destination for scientific research.

"The research performed here provides invaluable knowledge about climate change and helps protect freshwater systems around the world," she said.

with files from the Canadian Press


Updated on Monday, September 2, 2013 at 11:09 AM CDT: Updates with additional details.

1:45 PM: Updates with quotes from premier, additional details.

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