Bill Opens Door for Invasive Species

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Zebra mussels hitchhiked into the Great Lakes in the ballast tanks of international ships. Credit USDA

Great Lakes Conservation Groups Denounce Bill Opening Door For Invasive Species

Senate Committee Attaches Weakened Ballast Water Standards to Coast Guard Authorization

Ann Arbor, MI – Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to weaken Clean Water Act protections that help prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters. The Coast Guard Authorization bill includes a provision, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), that would eliminate U.S. EPA’s authority over the discharge of ballast water and codify inadequate standards that will not prevent new invasive species from adversely impacting our Great Lakes.

“This bill needs to be stopped – it threatens our Great Lakes and undermines our economy. The people, businesses and communities that have borne the brunt of damages wrought by invasive species like zebra mussels deserve solutions.  This bill does the opposite by removing Clean Water Act protections that can help shut the door on future invaders.” said Marc Smith, regional conservation director for the National Wildlife Federation.  “This bill has no place in the Coast Guard bill—or any bill. The U.S. Senate needs to stand firm and reject these Clean Water Act roll-backs once and for all.”

The current iteration of VIDA is similar to previous versions. It eviscerates protections against ballast water invaders—non-native species that are introduced into U.S. waters by the discharge of dirty ballast water from foreign ships.  These are a primary vector for invasive species.  Here is a letter (VIDA Letter 5_17 FINAL) sent by a coalition of Great Lakes conservation organizations in opposition to the VIDA bill.

VIDA strips the authority of the Clean Water Act over ship ballast water discharges and preempts states’ rights to protect their waters. It freezes in place measures that will be ineffective at both preventing new invasions and slowing the spread of extant invasive species.

“This places the cost of combatting invasive species on taxpayers, rather than on the international shipping industry responsible for letting these species hitch a ride into our waters,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director for Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “We urge the Senate to remove these harmful provisions from the U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act.”

“This is counterproductive to the significant state and federal efforts to restore the Great Lakes and protect its $7 billion sport-fishery,” said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

New invasive species arriving through ballast water is one of our most serious threats. We can’t allow bad policy decisions to undermine successful Great Lakes restoration efforts,” said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation.

ship duluth harbor USACE

Duluth Harbor. Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Some initial media hits:

Bill Would Strip EPA Authority Over Ballast Water Pollution

New Bill Could Roll Back Clean Water Protections

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