In­dus­try fights Great Lakes’ in­va­sive-species pro­tec­tions

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion -

ith the open­ing March 29 of the 60th ship­ping sea­son on the St. Lawrence Se­away, ocean­go­ing ves­sels be­gan tran­sit­ing the Great Lakes, bring­ing cargo — and the risk of even more bal­last-wa­ter in­va­sive species.

Ef­forts to mit­i­gate that in­va­sive-species risk are be­ing fought by the ship­ping in­dus­try.

Court-or­dered reg­u­la­tions re­quire ocean­go­ing ships to treat their bal­last wa­ter be­fore dis­charg­ing it. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the Al­liance for the Great Lakes, the ship­ping in­dus­try is fight­ing the reg­u­la­tions, lob­by­ing Con­gress for pas­sage of the Ves­sel In­ci­den­tal Dis­charge Act — a broad se­ries of mea­sures to gut ship­ping reg­u­la­tions.

The bill would elim­i­nate Clean Wa­ter Act au­thor­ity over ship dis­charges — in­clud­ing bal­last wa­ter — and re­move the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s au­thor­ity to de­cide stan­dards to pro­tect wa­ter­ways, in­clud­ing the Great Lakes. The mea­sure also would ex­empt ships op­er­at­ing solely on the Great Lakes and pre-empt states’ rights to pro­tect their wa­ters.

Said al­liance vice pres­i­dent for pol­icy Molly Flana­gan: “The ship­ping in­dus­try marks the se­away open­ing with fan­fare and cel­e­bra­tion each year. But be­hind the scenes, in­dus­try lob­by­ists are fight­ing to weaken reg­u­la­tions in­tended to pro­tect the Great Lakes from the bi­o­log­i­cal pol­lu­tion that is in­va­sive species.”

She con­tin­ued, “Aquatic in­va­sive species cause more than $200 mil­lion in eco­nomic dam­age an­nu­ally to the re­gion and have caused ir­repara­ble harm to the Great Lakes.”

Mem­bers of the Great Lakes con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion pre­vented in­clu­sion of the Ves­sel In­ci­den­tal Dis­charge Act in the fed­eral om­nibus spend­ing bill passed in March.

How­ever, in­dus­try lob­by­ists con­tinue to push for pas­sage.

— Lisa Neff

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