Ballast water bill pushing through House of Representatives
Major improvements needed to protect the Great Lakes
Contact: Donna Stine, Interim Executive Director, Michigan United Conservation Clubs 517-346-6487
Tony Hansen, Public Relations Manager, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, 517-346-6483
June 29, 2007. Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) applauds Congress as it takes the first step in passage of legislation to halt the introduction of new invasive species into the Great Lakes, but stresses that the current version of legislation contains fatal flaws that must be addressed before passage.
Yesterday the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, under the leadership of Congressman Oberstar (D, Minnesota), passed out H.R. 2830, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2007. This Act contains provisions to address treatment of ballast water from ocean-going ships. Michigan's Congressman Ehlers and Congresswoman Miller are also members of this committee and are strong supporters of preventing the introduction of invasive species into the Great Lakes.
Michigan hunters and anglers consider invasive species prevention and control to be one of the critical issues facing Michigan and the Great Lakes region. These aquatic invaders have wreaked havoc on our native fish populations, clogged our waterways and cost millions in taxpayer dollars. Currently the invasive disease, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, has forced the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to issue a fish disease control order requiring mom and pop bait shops and all fishermen to implement control measures to keep this disease from spreading into inland waterways.
"How can we expect the Michigan's citizens to take action to stop the spread of invasives when the shipping industry, the number one perpetrator of invasive species introduction, isn't?" said Donna Stine, Interim Executive Director of MUCC. "We need strong legislation now that will protect the region and its residents from the devastating effects of aquatic invasive species. We waited long enough; the time to act is now."
"We appreciate Congresspersons Oberstar, Ehlers and Miller's dedication to this critical issue," continued Stine. "However, on behalf of Michigan's sporting community, which contributes $2 billion to Michigan's economy annually, we stress that significant changes are necessary to fully achieve appropriate invasive species controls."
MUCC is especially concerned about the delay in implementing control. Viable treatment methods have already been installed on at least one ship operating in the Great Lakes. Why do we have to wait eight more years for the rest to catch up? The current bill would give the Secretary of Transportation until 2015 to require the installation of ballast water treatment technologies. More invaders are entering our Great Lakes at the rate of one every four months. In eight years there will be no sports fishery to worry about.
The bill does not require ships classified as having "no ballast on board" (NOBOB's) to immediately flush their tanks in the open ocean, reducing the likelihood that invasive species reside in the tanks. Instead, the bill lets the Coast Guard take time to develop rules applying to NOBOBs. We know NOBOB flushing will reduce the number of species in tanks, and this exemption cannot stand. NOBOB's still have water in their holds that can contain invasive species. NOBOB's must be required flush out their ballast water just like vessels classified as having ballast on board.
Currently, the legislation contains a clause that would preempt all state laws that regulate ballast water. The state of Michigan has laws in place that require ocean-going vessels entering Michigan ports to treat their ballast water in an effort to stop the influx and spread of invasive species. Until the federal government puts a strong federal program in place, states should not be preempted!
"MUCC pressured the state to take action when the federal government wouldn't. The shipping industry sued the state for implementing our own ballast water control laws and we stand firm behind our government," said Stine. "We've recently sued the shipping industry for violating the Clean Water Act because they discharge pollutants in the form of invasive species. We are pushing for strong federal legislation to prevent new invasive species. MUCC will not back down until Congress understands how important this issue is to Michigan's hunters and anglers. Michigan is doing all it can to stop invasive species, we will hold our federal politicians responsible to do the same."