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Great Lakes Article:

Ship crackdown floated for Great Lakes
Bid to control invasive species

The National Post
Published June 14, 2004

 

EAST LANSING , MICH. A binational advisory commission today is expected to begin considering whether to recommend banning ocean-going ships from entering the Great Lakes in order to protect them from significant and persistent environmental damage.

The International Joint Commission will review the possible ban, and
several less draconian measures, at its regularly bimonthly meeting in
Windsor.

The moves are designed to prevent introduction of additional invasive,
non-indigenous aquatic species into these large fresh-water lakes.

This growing problem was noticed about 15 years ago.

In an effort to find a more effective solution, Dennis Schornack, the
commission's U.S. co-chairman, today will ask the five other commissioners to consider spending US$55,000 to underwrite research to determine the economic impact of the possible ban, "the zero discharge option," as well as other courses of action. The ban "is an idea that has some attributes worth considering. It could happen. It's inappropriate not to consider all the options," Mr. Schornack said earlier this month at conference hosted by the Knight Centre for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

"How do we move cargo instead of critters?," he asked rhetorically.

Traffic affected by any such ban is relatively small: about 8.8 million of
the 191 million tons shipped last year through the St. Lawrence Seaway, the only direct gateway from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic. However, the Seaway Authority stands to lose US$6-million in annual tolls attached to that tonnage.

Offsetting those loses, as well as any additional shipping costs, are
expected environmental gains. For example, power plants and heavy
industries along the Great Lakes spend about US$75-million annually to
prevent zebra mussels from clogging water intake pipes. Also, the
US$7-billion regional sports fishing industry is concerned that invasive
species will continue to reduce the size and quality of some popular
catches, and ultimately could crowd some out.

The problem results because these non-native species, having no natural
local predators, hitch a ride into the Great Lakes in ballast water residue
or sludge that sits on the bottom of tanks in ships crossing the Atlantic.

For example, invasive zebra and quagga mussels are native to the Caspian and Black seas. Essentially, these and other unwelcome, dormant creatures enter the Great Lakes after an ocean-going ship, known as salties, empties fresh ballast water it has loaded early on during its Great Lakes cruise.

In addition to the ban, the IJC would like to better understand the
economic impact of mandating transshipment of goods, a regimen that would keep the salties and their unwelcome passengers out of the Great Lakes, Mr. Schornack said.

The six-member IJC routinely advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on cross-border water issues. It could formally recommend a ban on salties in a biennial report it must produce for both governments by September 2005.

Transshipped cargo could be transferred from salties anchored in the
St. Lawrence Seaway to feeder vessels that operate exclusively within the Great Lakes or transferred at Halifax, Montreal, or St. John, N.B., to
ships or railroads that would provide inbound service, Schornack said.

 

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