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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes advocates push for stricter water ballast rules
By Malia Rulon
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Great Lakes advocates told lawmakers Thursday that international standards designed to stop ships from carrying invasive species into U.S. waters will take too long to implement and aren't strict enough.

Members of two House Transportation subcommittees quizzed Coast Guard representatives, environ-mentalists and industry groups about what should be included in invasive species legislation that is pending in Congress.

Rules approved last month by the International Maritime Organization, an arm of the United Nations, would require ships to exchange ballast water, which is used to stabilize the vessels, in the open ocean to clear tanks of hitchhiking organisms. They also would have to treat or filter any water remaining in their tanks.

The international standards still must be approved by 30 countries and, if adopted, wouldn't take effect until 2009 for new ships and 2014 to 2016 for existing vessels.

"If we ratify the IMO convention, we ensure only the status quo continuing. We urge Congress to do better," said Catherine Hazlewood, clean oceans program manager for the Ocean Conservancy.

Dennis Schornack, chairman of the International Joint Commission, which monitors Great Lakes programs, said not doing anything means running the risk that another species as destructive as the zebra mussel will end up in the Great Lakes.

"The economic and ecologic risk is just too great," Schornack said.

The zebra mussel was found in the Great Lakes in 1988 after apparently being carried in a trans-Atlantic ship's ballast water, which was emptied in the lakes. It caused millions of dollars in damage and since then has clogged water pipes, ships and docks.

Ships carrying ballast water are required to exchange it before entering the Great Lakes, but the mandate has been ineffective because most ships entering the lakes carry a large cargo and no ballast water. However, those ships still can carry organisms.

Joseph Cox, president of the Chamber of Shipping of America, said his group supports mandatory standards but the technology isn't available to implement them immediately.

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