What do we want? A Ballast Bill. When do we want it? Now! Great Lakes Senators where are you? We are moving dangerously close to the end of the summer session and we still don’t have Senate approval for a ballast law – dooming us for another year (at least). Another year of ecological havoc, another year for a dozen or so invasive species to establish themselves in our fresh water, and another $5 billion in costs for our states, cha ching!
Please take heed and prevent more species such as the dreaded zebra mussels from entering our fresh waters. Ocean going ships have introduced more than 70 percent of the non-native species into the Great Lakes since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959.
In April, the House voted 395 to 7 approving the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2008 and tucked within that bill is a national ballast standard that will protect our fresh water from ballast discharges. Ships use ballast water for balance on surface water, but ocean going vessels harbor alien species and when they discharge this salty back wash they infect the lakes with dangerous microorganisms. The House bill will mitigate those effects by:
-Establishing a ballast water treatment standard;
-Requiring treatment technology on board commercial vessels in 2009 using an interim standard that grows more aggressive by 2012.
-Setting a national goal that ballast water discharged into all US waters will contain no living organisms by 2015.
But now, due to Senate inaction, the law we need most urgently languishes – we need the Senate to approve the Coast Guard Authorization – then reconcile the bills in committee and send it to the President for a signature before August recess.
“We need the Senate and President to complete what the House started and finally shut the door on invasive species introduced through ballast water discharge,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. “If this effort sinks, all of our nation’s great waters will suffer devastating and irreversible damage.”
The185 invasive species in the Great Lakes cost citizens, businesses and cities hundreds of millions of dollars per year. A new invasive species is discovered, on average, every 28 weeks.