Editorial: Congress must act to guard Great Lakes
Posted January 29, 2008
Experts contend that one new aquatic invasive species is discovered in the Great Lakes every 28 weeks. It's a growing menace to our lakes and the commerce and recreation they provide.
Locally, ocean-going vessels dock in Northwest Indiana at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.
The 186 non-native species already in our lakes, like the zebra mussel, cost the economy $5 billion a year in lost tourism, reduced commercial fishing revenue and steeper water and utility bills, according to records from the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.
U.S. managers of the St. Lawrence Seaway have proposed a new rule to halt the spread of invasive species from entering the Great Lakes via ballast water that is carried in unladen ships to provide stability.
The water is taken on the ship at the port of origin and, along with the water, come many tiny marine organisms.
When the ship reaches its destination, the ballast is pumped out, along with the freeloading organisms. Some of them are harmless, but others are pests that infect our fisheries and aquaculture.
There is emerging technology that can reduce the numbers of invasive species through an on-board treatment. It includes treating the discharge water to kill or remove non-native organisms, pathogens or viruses.
We would like to see Congress act quickly to mandate that oceangoing vessels install the available technology now to treat ballast water effectively.
It's been 20 years since the zebra mussel was introduced into the Great Lakes in ballast, and little has been done to stem the tide.
We join the chorus of environmental groups in calling for Congress to pass legislation to protect the Great Lakes from further devastation from invasive species.