Keeping Great Lakes protections afloat

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Might Lake Superior be approaching a record low this fall because the shipping industry has been using it to water down federal legislation designed to keep invasive species out?


The Great Lakes shipping industry seems to have a new scheme up their sleeve: keep up business as usual (i.e. introducing the vast majority of non-native invasive species that have been found in the Great Lakes) for as long as possible, but tell people you are fighting hard to do just the opposite.  Okay, not really a new scheme, but they’ve certainly put some new effort into it the last couple of weeks.

Witness two opinion pieces (last Sunday and Thursday) in the Duluth News Tribune. Both are from parts of the shipping industry and try their darndest to paint themselves as environmental protectors of the Great Lakes while indicating that the people who are actually trying to protect and restore the lakes are just their to muck up the process.  Is anyone fooled when the fox offers to watch the henhouse?

At issue is the water found in the ballast of ocean crossing ships.  That ballast water plays home to all kinds of aquatic invasive species, such as the zebra muscle now plaguing our lakes and rivers, and gives them a ride to the Great Lakes, where they take up residence and wreck havoc on the natural ecosystems.  The shipping industry has finally agreed that something needs to be done, but that hasn’t stopped them from doing their best to weaken the federal legislation moving forward to address this issue.   

Now two large items need to be fixed with the legislation.  One, we shouldn’t put off till tomorrow (or sometime after 2015 as the case may be) what can be done today.  According to even the Port Authority’s Sunday opinion piece, there are multiple solutions waiting to go.  Why are they pushing to put off implementation so long then?  An even larger problem is that the legislation would prevent Minnesota or any other state from protecting our own waters if we feel they are threatened.  I am a big believer in creating uniform federal standards when possible.  But local units of governments should always have the right to go above and beyond a baseline if they think it is in their best interest.  That is how our nation’s government has been modeled and to attempt to undermine that seems downright un-American. 

I applaud congress for not rushing to hop on a boat taking on water.  The bill is expected to come up again next month and Senators are working on fixing the flaws.  It’s a smart move to patch the holes in the boat before putting in the water.

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