The evidence may be largely circumstantial, but it suggests that the viral hemorrhagic septicemia that is devastating warm-water fish species in the Great Lakes came here on a ship that picked it up in Europe or in the Atlantic Ocean. And that is just one of the Great Lakes invaders that hitchhiked here in the holds and ballast tanks of an ocean-going vessel.
The list of invaders, from zebra mussels to exotic weeds, seems to grow every month with devastating effect.
The shipping industry, taking advantage of the anti-government and anti-regulation environment in Washington, is busy lobbying Congress to roll back ballast restrictions that protect the lakes against a full-blown onslaught of invasive pests. The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act would eliminate federal Environmental Protection Agency authority over ballast water pollution and would remove any barrier to dumping more noxious cousins of quagga mussels, round gobies and Eurasian ruffe into our waters.
What the shippers want is a free pass. If they dump the next zebra mussel or something worse into Lake Huron, they want the federal government and us to say "oops" and look the other way.
Not only would it gut federal protections, it would pre-empt states from taking action.
Those who love the Great Lakes have fought hard to get reasonable and effective ballast water protections — and know that what we have now certainly could be better. To have that undone by a legislative trick — the shipping lobby's incidental discharge bill is attached to the U.S. Coast Guard's funding bill — is underhanded and demoralizing.
We cannot afford to retreat in the fight to save the Great Lakes — not in the fight against pollution, the fight against invasives, or for restoration.
Congress must fight to separate this dirty bill from Coast Guard funding and then to treat it so that nothing left alive in it can contaminate our iconic waters.
— PORT HURON TIMES HERALD (AP)