congress could weaken protections against aquatic invaders
The U.S. House recently voted to push forward weak federal protections against ballast water discharges, a move favored by the shipping industry. The Coast Guard reauthorization measure approved by lawmakers includes federal rules that would be weaker than those in nearly every Great Lakes state. States would also be blocked from implementing addi-tional ballast water protections, even if deemed necessary by the states to protect their waters.
Ships use water-filled ballast tanks to maintain stability. The water is often discharged into rivers or lakes far from where the water was first loaded. Water dumped from ballast tanks can carry living organisms. The practice is responsible for introducing invasive species such as zebra mussels, and spreading them from one lake to the next. Minnesota and six other Great Lakes states have protections aimed at prevent-ing or slowing the spread of aquatic invaders. If the current House bill becomes law, all of these states would be forced to switch to weak federal regulations.
Minnesota Reps. Chip Cravaack and John Kline voted against amendments that would have left more protec-tive state measures in place. The Duluth/Superior Harbor, located partially in Rep. Cravaack’s district, receives more
than 5 billion gallons of ballast water each year — more than any other freshwater port in the world. In spite of Lake Supe-rior’s distance from the St. Lawrence Seaway, 69 harmful species are found here, more than 30 of which are directly attributed to ballast water.
The US Senate’s version of the Coast Guard reauthorization bill does not contain the harmful ballast water regulations. Differences between the bills will be resolved during a Con-ference Committee. Clean Water Action and allies will work to have the harmful ballast water regulations removed at that time. Contact U.S. Sens. Klobuchar and Franken to ask them to protect the Great Lakes by keeping these harmful provisions out of the bill.