Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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Cleaning up the Great Lakes

by Candice Miller on August 4, 2011

U.S. Coast Guard ready to issue new rules on cleaning ballast water for freighters
By Jim Bloch, Voice Reporter
New standards governing the cleaning of ballast water in ocean-going freighters, about to be adopted by the U.S. Coast Guard, should help prevent release of non-native species into the Great Lakes and other threatened U.S. waters, such as San Francisco Bay and the Chesapeake Bay.
That’s the word out of U.S. Rep. Candice Miller’s Washington, D.C. office. Miller represents District 10, which covers all of St. Clair and northern Macomb counties.
Miller testified at a ballast water hearing on July 7 held jointly by the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, on which she sits, and the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation regarding the new rule, “Standards for Living Organisms in Ships’ Ballast Water Discharged in U.S. Waters.”
Ballast water is used by freighters to maintain stability at sea and differs depending on the size of the ship’s load. It is typically taken aboard in a port area in one part of the world and discharged in another part of the world. It is one of the principal ways invasive species, such as zebra mussels, have been introduced into U.S. coastal and lake waters.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the status of the invasive species in lakes “deteriorating” in its 2009 report “State of the Great Lakes.” “New non-native species, now totaling 185 aquatic and at least 157 terrestrial species, continue to be discovered in the Great Lakes. Each new non-native species can interact with the ecosystem in unpredictable ways, with at least 10 percent of non-native species considered to be invasive, meaning that they negatively impact ecosystem health.”
“The zebra mussel, goby, milfoil, ruffe and water flea have all been traced to ballast water,” said Fred Kemp last spring during a seminar on the state of the St. Clair River. Kemp is the retired head of waste water management for the city of Port Huron and co-vice chair of Bi-national Public Advisory Committee, charged with tracking the cleanup of the river.
The EPA estimates that 30 percent of invasive species in the Great Lakes come from ballast water.
“I have worked on the issues of invasive species for several decades, so the U.S. Coast Guards impending release of their new rules regarding ballast water discharge is welcome and long overdue,” said Miller during the joint hearing. “These standards will be applied nationwide, but they are especially necessary to protect our magnificent Great Lakes which have been impacted so negatively by invasive species, such as the zebra mussels and the round goby.”
The Coast Guard’s authority to develop ballast water regulations comes from the Non-indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, reauthorized and amended six years later in the National Invasive Species Act. The Coast Guard must evaluate the standards every three years. The standard is the same standard adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for concentration of living organisms in ballast water discharges.
“It’s supposed to be issued soon,” said Erin Sayago, communications director for Miller, of the new rule. “Probably in the next few weeks.”
Sayago said the rule must first go to the Department of Homeland Security for sign-off, followed by the final sign-off of the Office of Management and Budget.
OMB, in its initial review of the rule last fall, estimated the compliance costs to be $168 million per year over 10 years. The benefits, in the form of damages avoided, are as high as $553 million per year.
The proposed standard is the same standard adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for concentration of living organisms in ballast water discharges. The Coast Guard is likely to toughen the standards as technology improves.
“Michigan and several other Great Lakes States have passed their own laws regarding ballast water discharge standards and they are to be commended for that, but quite frankly the only real solution relies on strong national standards that apply uniformly in all U.S. waters,” Miller said
Monday, August 01, 2011

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