Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Senate poised to unleash more invasive species in Great Lakes

[Update from 4/17/18. The measure was withdrawn. Good news.] You could not imagine a more foolish act of ideologically-driven de-regulation than intentionally weakening rules in place that protect Great Lakes fisheries, lake beds, power and water system intake pipes, beaches and recreational industries regionally from being fouled or destroyed by invasive species - - - - like these zebra mussels 
Person holding zebra mussels.
Photograph of zebra mussels: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes National Program Office, USEPA, Bugwood.org
- - by allowing them to escape through flushing from ocean-going freighters' ballast water tanks.

But that is precisely what the big-business obeisant US Senate is poised to do.

"The measure exempts ballast water from the Clean Water Act, and that’s a real problem because the Clean Water Act is the best protection for our waters that we have,” said Rebecca Riley, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“The stakes could not be higher,” the National Wildlife Federation said in a news release that said a vote on the measure in the U.S. Senate could come as early as Wednesday. “The passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act will be ‘game over’ in our efforts to effectively protect U.S. waters, businesses, and communities from invasive species.”
The current rules took years to produce; this blog has covered the issue since 2009, and Wisconsin experts were involved because - - at least prior to The WMC/Walker PollutionFest Two-Term Tour - - knowledgeable people of good will fought hard to stem what had already been unleashed in the Great Lakes and possibly leave a better eco-system behind.

Invasive species have already cost the Great Lakes states dearly, so this is a step in the wrong direction:

Aquatic invasive species, brought in primarily via the ballast tanks of ocean-going ships, have caused irreparable harm to the Great Lakes ecosystem and cost the region billions of dollars since the late 1980s. To improve balance and stability, ships take in or discharge water in their ballast tanks when cargo is loaded or unloaded. In doing so, they also take in all kinds of live critters that, when discharged somewhere else, can pose a serious threat to native species and ecosystems. Invasive species are costing the Great Lakes states more than $200 million each year already.
See Dan Egan's fine book on the matter - - The Death and Life of the Great Lakes. As reviewer Robert Moor writes:
The book notes that the striking clarity of the Lake Michigan water masks deep trouble facing the Great Lakes, Moor writes.
"I learned that the reason the lake had become so clear was that it had been invaded by a dastardly pair of bivalves — the zebra and quagga mussels — which had hitched a ride on a shipping barge from either the Black or Caspian Seas and then quietly but ceaselessly colonized the lake," Moor says.
And since I do not believe in coincidences, it's great that Egan's book is featured this month on public television.
When we think of invasive species threatening the Great Lakes, most of us think of the ugly face of the Asian carp. But in “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” journalist Dan Egan tells us there are other invasive species posing immediate dangers, including the quagga mussel, which is sucking Lake Michigan dry.
Maybe some of the Senators or their staff will see the programmed realize that the Great Lakes need more protections, not less.

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