Amendment Could Usher in More Invasives

Recently, Congressman Steve LaTourette (R-OH) offered an amendment (Sec. 459) to the Federal Fiscal Year 2012 Interior and Environment appropriations budget (HR 2584) that could have serious consequences for Michigan’s efforts to combat and prevent new invasive species from entering our waters.
His proposed amendment would deny any Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding to Great Lakes states that have ballast water rules that are more stringent than federal or international requirements.
What is ballast water? Ships, especially when not carrying a full load of cargo, will regularly intake water in certain areas of the ship to help balance or increase the stability of the ship during transit. Once the vessel reaches its intended port and loads or unloads new cargo, that water is no longer needed and is then released back into the waters of the new port. The problem is this water can contain species or organisms not native to the Great Lakes that when dumped into our water can wreak havoc on our ecosystem, fisheries and economy.
Ballast water is considered to be the number one gateway in the Great Lakes for the introduction of new aquatic invasive species. Ballast water discharge is the likely cause of the introduction of the zebra and quagga muscles that have cost the state of Michigan millions of dollars to combat since the late 1980s. In all, invasive species are costing the Great Lakes over $200 million dollars a year in losses to the commercial and sport fishing industries.
Under the LaTourette amendment, Michigan would be okay for the time being. However, that could change when the Coast Guard releases its set of “federal standards” sometime this fall. Should Michigan not completely agree with the technologies and standards developed by the Coast Guard, we could stand to either lose millions of dollars in Great Lakes restoration funding, or lose the ability to properly protect our waters from aquatic invasive species – a move that could cost us billions more trying to combat into the future.
Not exactly a win/win situation.
MUCC realizes that there is a need for strong and uniform ballast water regulations across the Great Lakes basin. These uniform standards, however, should come from a discussion of what is needed for all Great Lakes states and other interested parties, namely maritime shipping organizations. Playing the “my way or the highway” game that this amendment would in effect do is not a sound management strategy.
There is still time to block this amendment. MUCC has signed on to a letter that was sent out to our Michigan Congressional delegation asking them to oppose this amendment in the Interior Appropriations bill, which will likely be taken up in September.
You can still call or write your Congressman to do the same. Never done it before? The easiest way is to go to www.house.gov, find your Representative, and send them an email. Or, you can also call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, give then your Representative’s name, and they will patch you through.
MUCC will be following this and other important issues dealing with our ability to combat invasive species in our Great Lakes.

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