State allocates $6 million to fight invasive speciesGov. Jim Doyle announced Thursday that Wisconsin will spend $6 million to invest in experimental ballast water treatment systems for the state’s Great Lakes ports, including Superior, Milwaukee and Green Bay.
By: By DAN EGAN/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Gov. Jim Doyle announced Thursday that Wisconsin will spend $6 million to invest in experimental ballast water treatment systems for the state’s Great Lakes ports, including Superior, Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Contaminated ballast discharges from oceangoing vessels have been blamed for a host of environmental problems in the Great Lakes, including a decline in native fish, a rise in noxious algae and, more recently, widespread bird die-offs on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
“It is indisputable that this ballast water is poisoning our natural resources and we can no longer wait for the industry or the Federal Government to take action,” State Sen. Bob Jauch said in a Friday news release. “National legislation and sufficient enforcement for a treatment system before these ships enter the seaway are the most sensible solution. However, Federal delays prompt State Government to step up the effort.”
Congress has been mulling legislation for years that would require oceangoing vessels to treat their ballast water to kill any unwanted hitchhikers, but it has gone nowhere. Shipping companies have argued there are a host of technical problems in designing onboard treatment systems that effectively kill unwanted organisms in ballast tanks. Ballast water is used to steady a less-than-full ship on open seas and is discharged in exchange for cargo when a ship arrives at port.
Now Wisconsin is going to take a different tack in its fight against this “biological pollution.” The $6 million in grants will go toward building a system in Milwaukee that would involve discharging ballast to a facility onshore, treating it and returning it to the lake. Preliminary estimates peg the cost for such a system at $1 million to $2 million.
The Great Lakes are home to dozens of ports, so treating water at one or even three sites won’t do much to protect the region from the next zebra mussel. The hope is the Milwaukee project could pave the way for similar facilities across the Great Lakes.
“We’re looking at a demonstration program,” said Roger Larson, deputy director of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ bureau of watershed management.
While there is no fail-safe guarantee the process will remove all invasive species, the demonstration projects still should be developed as quickly as possible, Jauch said.
The goal, according to Doyle, is to keep commerce moving and to protect the deteriorating lakes.
“We have an opportunity to strengthen our shipping industry and protect our lakes from invasive species,” Doyle said. “The federal government is failing to take serious action, and it’s our time to be leaders in treating ballast water.”
Conservationists have lobbied hard for onboard treatment systems, and many have argued that oceangoing vessels should be blocked from even entering the Great Lakes until Congress passes a law requiring such systems.
Jauch hopes on shore treatment will be a viable alternative.
“This is a smart and necessary step to help us get ahead of a problem before it overwhelms us,” he said.
Great Lakes United’s Jennifer Nalbone said Thursday that she hadn’t heard of Wisconsin’s plan.
But she said the logical place to put such an onshore facility would be at a port outside the Great Lakes, so all ships would arrive in the Great Lakes with clean water.
“That would be ideal,” she said. “But we encourage the states to take their own actions.”
Absent overarching federal legislation, that is exactly what Great Lakes states have started to do.
Michigan recently passed a law requiring ships to clean their ballast before discharging in state waters, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board is considering adopting a similar rule.
— Copyright © 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-
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