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Governor must veto ballast bill

• Nov 16, 2017 at 4:00 PM

On July 11, state legislators from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania sent a letter to President Donald Trump calling for the prompt release of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' report on the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois.

The Brandon Road Lock is one of the weak points in the Chicago-area system of streams and canals that could allow Asian carp to leave the Illinois and Mississippi river systems to invade the Great Lakes. The corps had tentatively decided on upgrades for the lock, but was delaying the release of its report.

The letter to the president begins with this paragraph:

"As members of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus (GLLC), we are writing to request swift action in the federal government's efforts to help to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species in the Great Lakes. The GLLC is a nonpartisan, binational organization of state and provincial legislators representing the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces that are home to the Great Lakes. One of our principal goals is the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes, with aquatic nuisance species being one of our greatest concerns."

At least one of the state legislators who signed that letter didn't mean it.

Michigan Rep. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, is a member of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus and one of the people who signed that letter. Keeping aquatic nuisance species out of the Great Lakes is not one of his greatest concerns.

Since his election to the Legislature, he has worked to weaken Michigan's ballast water protections for ocean-going vessels. This time, he has come dangerously close to success. A bill he sponsored that would expose the Great Lakes to greater risk of new invasive species has passed both the Senate and House of Representatives. Only Gov. Rick Snyder stands between the Great Lakes and the next invasive pest — the next quagga mussel, lamprey eel, spiny water flea or next goby or Asian carp.

Michigan has the most stringent ballast water laws on the Great Lakes. We can't afford to relax our vigilance. If anything, our neighbors need to step up their games. Too many aquatic nuisances have invaded our lakes. We can't afford any more.

Gov. Snyder has vetoed earlier ballast bills intended to open the gates for foreign invaders. He must do so again. A broad coalition of environmental and conservation groups, from across the political spectrum, are urging him to veto this threat to our environment and economy, as well.

They also ask that voters contact the governor's office (517-373-3400) to request a veto on HB 5095 when it reaches his desk.

To do otherwise, as Lauwers wrote in his July letter, would put "at grave risk the largest surface freshwater system in the world and an economic driver for our entire nation."

— TIMES HERALD/PORT HURON (AP)

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