Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Senate Urged To Pass Coast Guard Act And Ballast Management

Jul 16: According to a release, preliminary data released by researchers at the University of Notre Dame, Center for Aquatic Conservation, estimates that invasive species that arrived in the ballast tanks of ocean-going vessels may cost the Great Lakes region upwards of $200 million dollars a year in losses to commercial fishing, sport fishing, and the area’s water supply. David Lodge, Director of the Center for Aquatic Conservation at the University of Notre Dame said, “We wanted to apply objective scientific research to one of the most pressing questions being asked today: what are the benefits and costs of shipping in the Great Lakes region? The distributions of losses we found with invasions from shipping may be the tip of the iceberg. There is much more economic information to uncover.” The estimated losses are for the U.S. alone, with comparable losses expected in Canada. The researchers said losses may also grow as these invaders spread from the source of invasion and across the country on boats, recreational equipment, or natural migration.

In a separate release from Great Lakes United (GLU), they said, "Time is running out on a solution to the Great Lakes invasive species problem, and the cost to the region has swelled to at least $200 million a year and is growing." GLU's Jennifer Nalbone said, “Before Congress adjourns for the elections, the Senate must agree to legislation already passed by the House of Representatives that puts in place protections against invasive species in the Great Lakes and all U.S. ports." She urged presidential candidates Senator Barack Obama [D-IL] and Senator John McCain [R-AZ] as well as all 16 Senators representing the Great Lakes states to reach out to other senators to make this a priority immediately.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act (H.R. 2830) would require ocean vessels coming to any U.S. port to install treatment technology to clean their ballast water by as early as next year. Scientists have cited ballast water from these ships as the cause of invasive species such as zebra mussels, quagga mussels, the Eurasian ruffe, round goby, and spiny water fleas, entering the Great Lakes.

On April 24, by a vote of 395-7, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 2830, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2007 [See WIMS 4/28/08]. The bill increases the size of the Coast Guard, reorganizes the Service, and enhances the Coast Guard’s dual mission of homeland security and maritime safety. Among many other items, Title V the bill requires ships to begin installing ballast water treatment systems in 2009 to control the introduction of invasive species into U.S. ports and waterways -- a measure particularly important to Great Lakes interests. All ships will be required to have treatment systems installed by 2016. The bill was sponsored by Representative James Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

Access a release on the research (click here). Access a fact sheet on the research and links to related information on the Great Lakes United website (click here). Access a release on passage of H.R. 2830 (click here).