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Great Lakes Article:

Invasive problem wouldn't disappear with salties' departure
By Peter Passi
Duluth News Tribune
Published December 25, 2005

If ocean-going ships were no longer allowed in the St. Lawrence Seaway, the problem of invasive species wouldn't go away. Efforts to control past introductions would continue to cost millions of dollars.

"But it doesn't help to continue introducing more stuff," said John Taylor, an associate transportation professor at Michigan's Grand Valley State University, who recently published a study of the benefits and costs of saltwater traffic in the Seaway.

It's difficult to predict how species will interact with one another, said Anthony Ricciardi, a professor of environmental science at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He explained that what seems to be a relatively benign introduction could develop into a major problem, given the right partner.

"The more you add to the mix, the more chance you could wake up a sleeper cell," Ricciardi said. "The introduction of one species could cause another to become unmanageable."

The shipping industry recognizes the problem of invasive species and is searching hard for a solution, said Adolph Ojard, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

Since 1993, foreign ships have been required to pump out their tanks and replace any ballast with ocean water before entering the Seaway. The rationale was that even if organisms made it through the flushing, few freshwater species would survive in a high-salt environment.

While this practice has helped, Ricciardi pointed out that new species continue to arrive in the Great Lakes via ballast.

Ojard predicts within five years, systems that effectively kill and remove exotics from ballast water will be ready for wide-scale deployment.

He points to the Federal Welland, a ship now testing a system that filters ballast water, pumps nitrogen into tanks to drive out oxygen and uses cyclone technology to shred the cells of small organisms that might still survive in the ballast.

Ballast-free ships are in the works as well. Recently, the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute provided funding to the University of Michigan School of Naval Architecture to help design a ship with a flow-through ballast system.

"I have no question that the ballast issue will be solved," Ojard said. "Wouldn't it be a travesty if that happens, but the Seaway system has been shut down, never to be resurrected?"

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