Great Lakes advocates slam Michigan plan to weaken ballast water standards
On Wednesday, November 8, leading advocates for the Great Lakes and Michigan’s natural resources denounced an effort by Michigan legislators to lower the state’s standards for ballast water treatment against aquatic invasive species. The bill would be a significant step backward from the state’s long history of leadership in protecting the Great Lakes from new aquatic invasive species. The groups spoke out after the Senate Natural Resources Committee approved House Bill 5095 in a vote of 4 to 1—sending it to the full Michigan Senate for consideration.
“Ballast water pollution has carried invasive species, bacteria and viruses from around the world and released them into our Great Lakes,” said Charlotte Jameson, government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “The impact of these species in Michigan has been enormous—in terms of damage to Great Lakes ecosystems as well as national economic costs to control tenacious invaders like the zebra mussel that exceed $9 billion annually. Now is not the time to throw in towel on protecting our Great Lakes from invasive species and we urge the Michigan Senate to reject this dangerous plan.”
“Michigan has long been a leader in efforts to protect the Great Lakes from aquatic invasive species, passing statewide legislation in 2005 requiring oceangoing ships to install technology to clean up their ballast tanks. Rolling back the state’s rules, especially while federal ballast cleanup standards are under attack in Congress, is the wrong move at the worst time,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes President and CEO Joel Brammeier.
"This bill creates a loophole around Michigan's current law which requires vessels to add 'active treatment' technologies that protect the Great Lakes from invasive species," said James Clift, policy director at the Michigan Environmental Council. "By weakening these standards, the likely consequence is new invasive species entering the ecosystem which put our recreation and commercial fisheries at-risk.”
"HB 5905 will delegate the protection of our Great Lakes to the federal government at a time when federal protections for natural resources across the board are being rolled back or eliminated," Clift added.
Invasive species, like zebra mussels and round gobies, have wreaked havoc on the Great Lakes. Brought in via ballast water tanks on ocean-going ships, invasive species out-compete native species and destroy habitat.
They also cost Great Lakes communities hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Installing technology on board ships to clean up ballast tanks is the most effective way to prevent new invasive species introductions into the Great Lakes. Sixty-five percent of invasive species were released in the Great Lakes when ships dumped their ballast water. Ships need ballast water tanks to stabilize them on long ocean journeys and when loading and unloading cargo.
HB 5095 was passed last week by the Michigan House with bipartisan support and opposition on a vote of 66-42. The bill to lower Michigan’s standards to match those used by the US Guard was then referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. The committee passed the bill on Wednesday afternoon in a vote of 4-1 and is now expected to be brought up for a full Senate vote as soon as Thursday.