TORONTO -- Ontario has found common ground with the federal government and Manitoba to keep a world-famous experimental research area open in the northwestern part of the province, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday.

It will provide "operating support" and work toward an agreement so the research conducted in the Environmental Lakes Area near Kenora can continue.

"I think it's an important scientific endeavour and I don't believe that either provincially, regionally, or nationally and internationally we can afford to let it go," Wynne said.

The remote region of 58 pristine lakes has been used since 1968 for fundamental freshwater studies, Wynne said. It employs 17 people and collaborates with about 115 students.

Ottawa announced last year that it was closing the area to save $2 million annually. Provincial officials say that figure represents federal spending on research projects, and the operating costs are $600,000 annually.

The Conservatives said it wouldn't be operated as a federal facility as of March 31.

The amount of money Ontario will spend to keep the facility open hasn't been determined, Wynne said.

But the province is working collaboratively with the Conservatives, the Manitoba government and others to keep the area operational this year and to ensure sustained longer-term operations, she said.

"My fear would be that if we don't continue this research, we're going to have to recreate it at some point down the line," Wynne said.

"And so to my mind, it makes more sense to continue this endeavour."

The research performed in the area helps with pollution reduction strategies, understanding of climate change and how to protect lakes and rivers in Ontario, across Canada and around the world, she said.

"We have had many conversations with members of the public and our scientific and academic communities who want to see the Experimental Lakes Area stay open," Wynne said.

"Investing in science and research to help us understand and prevent pollution is a wise investment for the people of Ontario."

Many scientific researchers have said the Conservative government is divesting the federal government of scientific expertise and research ability.

They say the closure jeopardizes the long-term data that has been collected for four decades.