Ballast Bill Looks Good With, Alas, Two Notable Exceptions

What do you get when you cross a “salty” with a “NOBOB?”

Invasive species in the Great Lakes!

Ocean vessels known as “salties” are the primary source of invasive species introductions into the great lakes. The ships that are loaded with cargo and claim no ballast-on-board (NOBOB) are particularly problematic because they are exempt from any treatment or management requirements. But undesirable critters still lurk in their ballast tanks. Lawmakers are trying to prevent and control the invasion and occupation of our nation’s waters with the Ballast Water Management Act of 2007. 

The potentially landmark bill would amend the Non-Indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 to set up a much needed national approach to managing ballast water and attacking the avenues – ballast water and bilge – that many of the 185 aquatic species such as, the zebra mussel, round goby and spiny water flea, have used to enter the lakes. As ships load and unload cargo they take on and discharge ballast water – this provides stability for the ship. Current regulations are not adequate – there are too many ways for ships to use loopholes that inadvertently introduce new species to the lakes, on average, every 28 weeks.
 
“This is the big problem for the lakes,” says Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “It only takes one invasive species to tip the balance. In terms of destruction of the lakes, we’re playing Russian Roulette.” The new bill would set a rigorous ballast water discharge standard, including a goal of reaching “zero” discharge.
 
But, the legislation acquired two intolerable preemptions along the way – one that would render the Clean Water Act impotent (blasphemy!) and another that eliminates state efforts to protect their waters.

When Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced amendments to strike these preemptions, the bill was withdrawn for consideration by the senate commerce committee chair, Sen. Daniel Inouye. An agreement was struck between the two senators to work out their differences and come back in September. Once they figure it all out, the bill should re-emerge as a stronger bill. Hopefully.
 
“This could,” said Skelding, “be a groundbreaking program if congress can work it out.”

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