Ottawa is spending $18 million to help fund research aimed at cleaning up Lake Winnipeg, but some environmentalists argue the feds are spending with one hand while taking away with the other.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the funding announcement in Gimli Thursday.

"Actions that will improve the quality of Lake Winnipeg and the life and livelihood she supports will be a priority," said Harper.

Algae blooms caused by an overload of nutrients have plagued Lake Winnipeg over the last decade.

Some of the funding will go towards research and monitoring done by the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium.

Scientist Al Kristofferson said the consortium is trying to determine how much of the nutrients need to be removed from the lake, while making sure the fish stocks have a proper food supply.

"We want to get rid of blue-green (algae) blooms, but we want to maintain a healthy fishery," he said.

The money is the second phase of a program launched in 2006.

Scientists expect some of the funding will also be used to fund smaller remedial projects aimed at reducing nutrients in the lake.

Harper was also greeted in Gimli by several protesters who want him to restore funding to the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario. The federal government cut the annual grant to the decades-old research facility in this year's budget.

Harper said his government has no plans to save the ELA.

"Obviously, we're not intending to continue that other project," said Harper.

Protestors, however, said the project's work has had widespread effects and needs to continue.

"We have been contributing to research on water quality on lakes in Canada and around the world," said Diane Orihel from the Coalition to Save ELA.

After making the announcement in Gimli Thursday, Harper attended a BBQ for Conservative supporters in Manitoba. Nearly 800 Conservatives attended the event.

Harper used the forum to remind his supporters he eliminated the long-gun registry and reinforced his belief that Canada would outperform several other nations including the United States, Europe and Japan. 

- with files from the Canadian Press and a report from CTV’s Jeff Keele