Editorial: Ban oceangoing ships from Lakes
Drawbacks exceed benefit of allowing them access
The Flint Journal
May 01, 2007
As non-native species continue to threaten the economic and ecological health of the Great Lakes, efforts to outright ban oceangoing freighters are gaining steam. It's about time.
Environmentalists have been sounding the alarm since the 1980s, warning of the dangers of the zebra mussel and other creatures that have been dumped into the lakes along with ships' ballast water. Until recently, most politicians turned a deaf ear. As a result, at least 183 foreign organisms now call the Great Lakes and connected waterways home.
You don't have to be an environmentalist to see that these organisms represent a serious threat to native species, our beaches and lake-based industries. They have literally cost us billions of dollars over the last 20 years.
A ban won't undo the damage that has already been done. Experts will still need to figure out how to handle those exotics. Still, if the U.S. and Canada, which share ownership of the St. Lawrence Seaway, agree to a ban, at the very least no more species will be introduced.
Some may see a ban as a severe solution, but less stringent alternatives are not working. The law requires all oceangoing ships that visit state ports to obtain a permit by either promising they will not discharge ballast water or by proving they have the equipment to sanitize ballast tanks.
The benefits of allowing oceangoing freighters to stay the course in the Great Lakes is far exceeded by the drawbacks. It's time to protect our incredible natural resources.