Ballast Battle Lines Drawn

Wisconsin is the latest state to add their patch to the quilt of ballast water regulations that is quickly being sewn across the Great Lakes region as the states battle invasive species. Wisconsin recently revealed proposed regulations that would set a high bar for Ocean going ships that want to dock in the state’s ports.

“We’ve seen every single great lakes state go above and beyond what the Federal Government requires,” said Jen Nalbone from Great Lakes United. Under the Clean Water Act’s section 401 states have the authority to regulate ballast water and the Great Lakes states have shown they are serious about addressing this threat to restoration. But this piece meal solution is causing shippers to complain.

Although he declined to comment on Wisconsin’s plan, Stuart Theis, executive director of the Cleveland-based US Great Lakes Shipping Association, did tell the Chicago Tribune that everyone on the lakes is frustrated with a “crazy quilt” of state regulations.

Last year we came close to getting a national standard. The US House did pass the legislation – it failed in the US Senate – but House Members remain sincerely interested in addressing this concern this year. Then in December, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted disappointing ballast discharge permits that just don’t help at all.

Still, Nalbone points out that the House bill would have created a “global precedent setting standard” so, the good news is that a national ballast standard “doesn’t scare Congress.” And she is sure that the stars are aligned for some significant changes this year.

The Healing Our Water’s Coalition is in Washington this week to urge Congress to enact ballast legislation that will send invasive species into retreat. The Great Lakes Delegation should also co-sponsor HR 669, the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act of 2009.

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