Saving the ELA – OVERVIEW

FOCA has been involved with saving the core funding of ELA since 2012, and has benefited from their research since the 1960’s!

Sept 2017 – IISD-ELA wants to #MakeMercuryHistory. Find out why mercury is so harmful to humans, and what the IISD is doing to help remove mercury from the environment. Click here for more.

IISD ELA video still

April 2017 – Check out these informative videos about important lake science (on nutrients, hormones, mercury, and more) going on at the IISD-Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).

In related video news, TVO’s the Water Brothers released an episode titled, “On Thin Ice,” which features a visit to IISD-ELA by the brothers, as part of a cross-country discussion about climate change impacts. The episode is available for streaming from the Water Brothers website; the ELA visit comes near the half-way mark of the video.

Other Related news:

September 2017 – Find out why is mercury so harmful to humans? What do we need to do to safeguard human health from mercury poisoning? And what is IISD doing to help remove mercury from the environment?

August 10, 2016 – New Investment in Freshwater Research at IISD Experimental Lakes Area (Government of Canada)

Ottawa commits to putting money back into Experimental Lakes Area (CP)
New federal investment for the ELA  (news from IISD-ELA)

August 10, 2016 – Experimental Lakes Area to get boost from federal government (CP)

Feds to announce cash for Experimental Lakes Area (CBC) 


FOCA’s Perspective (written: 2014)

Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is an important resource involved in understanding water and lake systems in Canada – there is no other water research facility like it in the world.

The ELA was founded in 1968 and consists of 58 small lakes and their catchments, located in northwestern Ontario.This outdoor laboratory enables whole-ecosystem research on environmental problems. Studies conducted at the ELA have been influential in understanding and managing issues such as algal blooms, acid rain, climate change, mercury pollution and more. This is a unique, irreplaceable program for research on water quality and fisheries.

Hrenchuk_2014_seine net L222

image: IISD-ELA, 2015

ELA’s unique research capability remains very relevant if we are to deliver defensible, science based national and international policies for the sustainable ecosystems espoused by the Government of Canada.

The current Federal Government refers often to the phrase “Responsible Resource Development”; the new approach (e.g. in the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the new Navigation Protection Act, and the revised Fisheries Act) is to focus on only higher risk projects which may have regional or watershed scale impacts.  For regulators to provide sound, effective and efficient policies it is an absolute requirement that environmental impacts are known and measured and if required, mitigated – based on scientifically-based standards, and guidance.

The Experimental Lakes Area is an essential platform to deliver science at the watershed/whole lake basis to test and validate impacts of decisions related to Canada’s freshwater ecosystems. Watershed or ecosystem level testing can help us to understand complex and compounding effects on natural systems, their assimilative capacity, and which policies and approaches work best.

This science is crucial to allow for continuous improvements within both government and industry alike. See Current Research.

FOCA is cautiously optimistic about the recent realignment of the ELA under the auspices of the IISD and with the financial support and oversight of the Province of Ontario, and Manitoba.  The continuation of this important research may help to avoid Canada’s freshwater ecosystems being further imperiled by unanticipated and poorly understood environmental stressors.

To learn more about the State of Canada’s Freshwaters, including many references to the importance of freshwater science to understanding and managing our lakes and rivers, watch this recent presentation by David Schindler at the University of Waterloo, June 2014

Notable Quote: “Science should underpin policy…In a democracy, science should inform a voting populace”.


Background & news items:

In May 2012, the Federal government announced the proposed closure of the ELA and an end to its important science EFFECTIVE MARCH, 2013. The following are news items posted by FOCA over two years (oldest news at the bottom).

April 1, 2014 – a deal is signed between Ontario and IISD to continue the work of the ELA!! Click here for the late-breaking details… (the previous agreement ended yesterday)

And read the article by Diane Orihel and David Schindler in the Globe and Mail…

February 15, 2014 – The Federal Government has just published proposed regulations to allow experimental research at ELA by a 3rd-party operator. Click here for the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. Read also this press release from IISD, the proposed 3rd-party operator.

As reported in Kenora Online (Jan. 24, 2014) a number of Ontario regulations need to be changed in order for work to carry on at ELA under the direction of the IISD. The new operating arrangement is expected to begin at the beginning of the new fiscal year – April 1, 2014.

There is an EBR posting (COMMENTS UNTIL FEBRUARY 15) which intends to set out regulations by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to authorize experiments at the ELA under provincial environmental legislation.

Friends of ELA website

November 3, 2013 – The ABCs of the ELA,  by Diane Orihel and Maude Barlow (iPolitics)

September 30, 2013: Experimental Lakes Benefit Muskoka (Cottage Country Now)

July 31, 2013:  Ontario Minister of Natural Resources announced commitment to the ELA and confidence an agreement will be finalized soon. Ontario commits to “up to $2 million per year.” Read the Minister’s letter, as reported by Kenora Online. Then, read the subsequent Globe & Mail article on the subject, bringing the $ commitment into question.

July 24, 2013: Time Running Out for ELA (Globe and Mail)

July 2013: Troubled Waters The Walrus Magazine

May 9, 2013 – CBC News article on “deal” reached that would save ELA


April 24, 2013: FOCA is cautiously enthusiastic about news today that the Province of Ontario, and the Province of Manitoba have committed to keep ELA open through 2013. While there have been no financial commitments made as yet, FOCA will continue to follow progress on this positive development! Read FOCA’s press release from April 24th (pdf; 1 page)

Additional news items from 2013:

CHEX TV interview with FOCA re: ELA closure, government silence:

April 2, 2013 – No government comments re: ELA closure – read the LOWDPOA & FOCA Press release (pdf; 1 page)

FOCA_ELA_protest_at_Cottage_Life_Show_WEBRES_Apr2013April 5, 2013 – FOCA protests to save ELA at the Spring Cottage Life Show, Toronto. Pictured: Terry Rees and Tracy Logan of FOCA.

March 2013: Read FOCA’s position statement (pdf; 2 pages) on the slated closing of the ELA, scheduled for March 31, 201

March 2013: Al Jazeera video “Canada should be at the forefront of research into such a crucial resource; instead it’s cutting funding for water science at a time when this country, and the world, need it most”

Globe and Mail Video – Time is running out for ELA

Shuttering of research station called a ‘travesty’ – Globe and Mail Mar. 16

Projects come to abrupt halt at ELA – Globe and Mail Mar. 16

Feds officially terminating ELA agreement – Dryden Observer


December 2012 – FOCA members, Lake of the Woods District Property Owners  Association Position Statement on the ELA (pdf; 1 page).


November 16, 2012: Globe and Mail article about rumoured sale of ELA – “Ottawa set to transfer unique freshwater research lab…” Read the article…


July 2012 Video – Stop the War on Science


May 28, 2012: FOCA’s Executive Director, Terry Rees, spoke at Parliament Hill to the Budgetary Sub-Committee about Bill C-38; his comments included a plea to reconsider the decision to close ELA.

Read a summary of FOCA’s statement….. (pdf; 2 pages)

View the actual Parliamentary video of the session (FOCA’s comments begin around minute 35:35)

May 17, 2012: FOCA was one of the very first to break the news about the government’s decision to close ELA. See our notice in the May FOCA Elert… (pdf; 4 pages) For more news and links to media items, click here…

Michelle LewinSaving the ELA – OVERVIEW