The long, painful process of rescuing the irreplaceableExperimental Lakes Area of fresh water
environmental research has taken another small but essential
step. The Ministry of the Environment has made the decision to proceed with
proposed regulations under the Environmental Protection Act
(EPA) and Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) to create a mechanism
to authorize experiments at Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) that
involve putting pollutants into a test lake so that its impacts can
be studied. An expert panel would oversee the broader scientific
process of approving and facilitating experiments. Environmental
research at the ELA has been essential for 40 years, and has no
When the ELA was federally operated, it did not need provincial
permits. Now that the federal government has abandoned the ELA, as
well as much other environmental research, the ELA does need
provincial permission to add pollutants to surface water or
Regulation Decision Notice: EBR Registry Number: 012-0621
Experimental Lakes Area – Enabling Continued Research
Ministry of the Environment
Date Decision loaded to the Registry:
March 14, 2014
Date Proposal loaded to the Registry:
January 16, 2014
Keyword(s): Fish and Wildlife | Monitoring | Water | Protected
Related Act(s): Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990
| Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990
"On January 16, 2014, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE)
posted a regulatory proposal to create a mechanism to authorize
experiments at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) under provincial
environmental protection legislation. A decision has been made to
proceed with the proposed regulations under the Environmental
Protection Act (EPA) and Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA).
ELA is the only whole ecosystem freshwater research facility in
the world. It encompasses 58 freshwater lakes and basins designated
for research. In Canada and around the world, it has been a
powerful resource for understanding the impact of human activities
and industrial development on freshwater ecosystems, based on
whole-lake experiments and manipulations.
Research conducted at the ELA has informed freshwater management
for over 40 years, including significant discoveries relating to
mercury, acid rain and phosphorus. The International Institute for
Sustainable Development (IISD) has come forward as a potential
operator of the ELA, and the province is currently negotiating an
agreement with IISD to allow them to operate the site over the long
Regulations under the EPA and OWRA were proposed, as both Acts
regulate discharges of contaminants into the natural environment.
In order for an experiment to receive authorization, it must be
approved on scientific merit by an expert panel established by the
ELA operator. The Director issuing the authorization must also be
satisfied that the experiment will not cause irreparable harm to
the environment or adverse effects beyond the catchment area of the
lake where the experiment will be conducted, and that an
appropriate monitoring plan is in place to ensure that the
experiment does not result in these adverse impacts. Appropriate
plans must also be in place to manage and remediate any adverse
effects, prevent and manage spills or other accidents, and to
notify persons who may be affected by the conduct of an experiment,
including potentially impacted First Nations and Métis
Once a Statement of Authorization is issued, the regulations
provide that certain specified provisions of the EPA and OWRA do
not apply to the experiment (please consult the regulations for
specific provisions). The regulations only apply to designated
lakes within the geographic boundaries of the ELA, and only to
authorized experimental activities. The lakes designated in these
regulations are the same lakes that have been set aside for
manipulation since the ELA's inception."
Experimental Lakes Area – Enabling Continued
EBR Registry Number: 012-0621
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