Wisconsin DNR adopts ballast water permit standardsThe Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources modified its original proposal to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species, but it didn’t back off from setting higher standards than those established by the International Maritime Organization.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources modified its original proposal to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species, but it didn’t back off from setting higher standards than those established by the International Maritime Organization.
Standards established by the DNR require ocean-going vessels to meet standards 100 times those set by IMO. However, the timeline modified to ensure the state’s standards can be met by available technology.
“The permit assures us that we will be able to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species, and at the same time, doesn’t prohibit or discourage an important part of economy,” said Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, during a press conference at Midwest Energy Resources Terminal on today morning.
When the initial rules for ballast water discharge permits were made public in February, the standards and timeline for implementation set off a firestorm with local and industry officials concerned about the impact on Wisconsin’s ports, which would be more stringent than those required in Minnesota and five other Great Lakes states. Only New York has standards as stringent as Wisconsin.
“This is really good for our Twin Ports and our port staying a strong port in the Great Lakes,” said Mayor Dave Ross. The Twin Ports is the second largest port on the Great Lakes and 16th largest world port.
Ross said the change at the heart of improving the situation a few months ago comes down to the timeline, in which ships have to comply with the new standards for ballast water discharge.
“This has brought us to a place now where we have a reasonable period of time to accomplish what everybody agrees that we need – ballast water treatment,” Ross said.
The original proposal required ocean-going vessels discharging ballast into Wisconsin waters to meet the more stringent standards by 2012. Changes maintain that requirement for new ocean-going vessels, but allow existing ships until Dec. 31, 2014, to meet the ballast discharge requirements.
Lakers, which sail exclusively within the Great Lakes system, are not subject to the standards, but are required to use “best management practices” to prohibit the spread of invasive species.
“The ships that sail on the Great Lakes exclusively are not the one’s that are bringing aquatic invasive species here in the first place,” said Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior. “We want to make sure we’re getting at the … cause.”
This is nothing new to the industry, said Fred Shusterich, president of Midwest Energy in Superior. He said the effort to inhibit the spread of invasive species within the Great Lakes system through management practices is something the industry has imposed on itself for about a decade.
“We have a very rational response to where we have some breathing room to truly solve this problem,” said Ross, who serves on the Great Ships Initiative Board. “… There is no simple solution to ballast water treatment.”
The Great Ships Initiative, a collaboration of ports, shipping industry, government and science, is testing ballast water treatment systems. To date, nothing tested has proven effective under all circumstances, the mayor said.
“We’re certainly not ready to put the technologies on ships,” Ross said.
Jauch said a technical advisory committee will be established to determine whether the timelines adopted can be met. The panel, which will include scientists and industry officials, will determine the feasibility of treatment by the end of 2010.
“The final permit is a vast improvement over the initially proposed permit language that was released earlier this year,” said Andy Lisak, director of the Development Association. “The permit is a victory for all of us who care about the health of the Great Lakes and the viability of Wisconsin’s maritime industry.”
While Wisconsin has adopted its own standards for ballast water discharges, legislators and local officials alike hope the adoption will spur congress to adopt federal standards that apply to all the nation’s ports.
“We have been tremendously frustrated that we haven’t seen a national or international standard agreed upon,” Milroy said. “We hope today’s announcement will spur further help and invigorate the debate in Washington, because that’s the common goal we share … it makes the most sense.”