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Should the government's Experimental Lakes Area be shut down?

Categories: Politics, Science & Technology

UPDATE June 15: Internationally renowned researchers say the government's planned shutdown of the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario would cost $50 million.

The money, needed to revert the lakes to their natural state as required by law, would keep the station's scientific research going for 25 years, says the Save the ELA coalition.

The researchers also charge that Ottawa is shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario because its findings contradict the petroleum industry's position on oil sands.

"This government is choosing to ignore the science that we generate," said Diane Orihel, head of the coalition.

Original post June 5: An internationally renowned facility for the study of water pollution and lake ecosystems will be closed in March because of cuts in the federal government's budget.

Lake 239, one of 58 lakes that make up the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario, is seen in a webcam photo taken May 17. Funding for the research facility will end next March, the federal government has announced.Lake 239 is one of 58 lakes that make up the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario. (experimentallakesarea.ca)The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is made up of 58 pristine lakes in northwestern Ontario and research conducted there has pioneered investigations into acid rain and phosphates in laundry detergents.

The ELA will be closed at the end of the fiscal year, March 2013, because of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

A group of scientists called the Coalition to Save ELA says shutting down the facility would be bad for science and public policy making.

"Canada enjoyed an incredibly good reputation. We were at the forefront of freshwater ecological work," said Ian Davies, a scientist who worked at the station for 23 years. "This could put us in a backwater."

A spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the lake research conducted at the ELA is "better suited to universities."

"The department will no longer conduct research that requires whole lake or whole ecosystem manipulation [and] as such the research program at the Experimental Lakes Area will be ceased and the facility will be closed," Melanie Carkner said in an email.

Prof. John Smol, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change at Queen's University, called the decision "shortsighted" and said it is unrealistic to assume universities will take over the work.

"They're being cut too," he said.

NDP MP Pat Martin said closing the facility doesn't make financial sense, either, because reverting the lakes back to their natural state, as required by law, would cost more than keeping the ELA up and running.

Should the government's Experimental Lakes Area be shut down? Let us know what you think.



(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

Tags: environment, money, Politics, POV, Science & Technology

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