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Great Lakes Article:

State updates efforts to fight lake invaders

Associated Press Writer

LANSING -- State officials called Wednesday for a coordinated fight against "aquatic nuisance species," which they portrayed as the top environmental threat to Michigan waters.

Such invaders as the zebra mussel and the round goby -- not native to the Great Lakes but transferred here by oceangoing freighters that take on tainted water as ballast -- threaten to destroy the lakes' natural populations of game fish and disrupt the lives of shoreland residents, they said.

"There is no greater threat to the Great Lakes than these exotic species," said Russell Harding, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

"They are a threat to our way of life," said David Ladd, director of the state Office of the Great Lakes.

Harding, Ladd and other state officials held a ceremony at the state Capitol at which they warned of the danger and drummed up support for steps to combat that threat.

"There's no question in my mind that if this isn't the top threat to the Great Lakes, it's among the top two or three," said state Sen. Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, the chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Sikkema sponsored and pushed through legislation requiring shippers to register with the state and adopt the "best management practices" to limit release of invasive species.

Harding said the state is testing ways to kill exotic species carried in ballast water, which is discharged when a freighter takes on new cargo.

"I think chlorination will work," he said. "We absolutely are going to have to solve this. We need federal help."

National legislation to address the exotic species problem is pending, but Sikkema said it has stalled short of final passage.

"Washington doesn't seem to get it," he said.

Officials released an update of Michigan's aquatic nuisance species management plan.

It calls for coordination of efforts and enactment of laws to reduce the impacts of nonnative species, more information and education campaigns to address the issue, and the establishment of a network of experts to provide accurate information about the problem.

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