Contact: Allegra Cangelosi
50 F Street NW, Suite 950
Washington DC 20001
Congress Approves New Funds for
Preventing Aquatic Invasive Species Invasions
Washington — On Tuesday, Congress provided nearly $1 million in new funds toward preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. Yesterday, the President signed the bill into law. The funds go to the Great Ships Initiative (GSI), a collaborative effort to hasten shipping free of invasive species on the Great Lakes.
Managed and implemented cooperatively by the Northeast-Midwest Institute and the University of Wisconsin Superior, GSI generates much needed independent evaluations of proposed ballast treatments performance and toxicity in fresh water. As regulatory authorities gear up to require ballast treatment prior to discharge into natural waters, the research outcomes are of keen interest regionally, domestically and internationally. As a result of this broad interest, the GSI works collaboratively with state and federal agencies in the United States to generate important information for regulatory decision-making, and with international maritime groups to evaluate treatment effectiveness.
Invasive species cause significant economic and environmental damage to aquatic systems globally including the Great Lakes and virtually all salt water coasts of the United States. Commercial saltwater ships account for the majority of new introductions of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes, and all ships which ply the system are potential vectors for the spread of invasive organisms once they are introduced. United States law, which encourages ships to apply effective and environmentally sound ballast treatment, has not yet clarified the level of performance that would be adequate in this regard.
Meanwhile, the International Maritime Organization set deadlines for treatment systems to be operated by ships to a numeric performance standard, but there has been little or no testing in fresh water. Proposed treatment systems include ozone, ultra violet irradiation, chemical additives, deoxygenation, and filtration, usually in some combination.
Congressman Dave Obey has been a strong and consistent supporter of this project and efforts to control invasive species over a number of years. The project is also complementary of legislation that Congressman James Oberstar introduced and which was passed by the House of Representatives last year requiring ballast treatment on ships. “This is the only ballast water treatment testing facility operating in the United States, and it is vital that we test ballast water treatment systems to ensure that the waters of the Great Lakes can be protected from the introduction of new invasive species,” said Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “ The new funds will help the Great Ships Initiative evaluate promising treatments during the 2009 testing season.