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GLIN==> Invasive Species Law Needed Now

Article published Jul 31, 2008

www.goerie.com (Erie, Pennsylvania)

Invasive species law needed now

That stinky mess at Shades Beach isn't just an annoyance to swimmers, boaters and sunbathers at the popular Harborcreek park on the shore of Lake Erie.

It's an example of the big environmental problems that have followed the introduction of non-native species into Great Lakes waters.

The black sludge is expected to foul the Shades Beach shoreline for the next few weeks.

The blame can be traced to zebra mussels, an invasive species that hitchhiked into Michigan's Lake St. Clair in 1988 and has now spread to 20 states.

Zebra mussels filter water and that permits more sunshine to penetrate the lake floor. Nurtured by phosphorus, large algae blooms occur, break off and plop on the beach.
It's not a pretty sight, and neither is the news from a new study by David Lodge, director of the Center for Aquatic Conservation at the University of Notre Dame.

On July 16, Lodge released a study estimating that invasive species exact a $200 million toll annually on the Great Lakes region in the U.S. The study looked at the impact of invasive species on commercial fishing, sport fishing, wildlife watching and raw water use by industries, municipalities and others.

Scientists are searching for solutions to eradicate invasive species, and that research must be pursued vigorously. Yet even as such research presses for answers to eliminate the invasive species already here, governmental action is also needed to stop new invasive species from streaming into the Great Lakes.

That's why we have been a strong supporter of federal legislation requiring foreign ships to install water ballast treatment systems and why we continue to urge action.

Untreated ballast water from bodies of salt water has allowed zebra mussels and other invasive species into the Great Lakes. In April, the U.S. House approved legislation requiring foreign freighters to install treatment systems for ballast water. The bill is now in the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, where Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is holding it up.
The legislation has the support of most mainstream environmental groups, but a rift has developed with some West Coast environmentalists charging that the bill must be flawed because it's also backed by the shipping industry.

Their argument is more complex than that, of course, and is tied to questions about whether the ballast bill would supersede protections from the federal Clean Water Act. There are threats of lawsuits, which will only snarl the protections this bill provides. But it's disconcerting that a vital piece of legislation could be tripped up because both environmentalists and industry support it.

The U.S. Senate should push to pass the ballast water legislation.

As Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes and co-chairman of the Healing Our Waters Coalition, said: "This bill contains the strong national protections that people, businesses and cities have been seeking for years."


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