Bills seeking stronger action to keep unwanted marine creatures out of ship ballast were introduced this year in the U.S. House and at least three Great Lakes states.
Perhaps the most vocal proponent of a crackdown is Michigan state Sen. Ken Sikkema, R-Grandville, who introduced his bill in February.
As chairman of the Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee, he has conducted a series of hearings around the state. He wants the committee to discuss and vote on his bill after the Legislature reconvenes in September.
As introduced, it would require:
--Sterilization to remove or kill all living biological organisms in ship ballast before it is discharged into Michigan waters.
--The state Department of Environmental Quality to determine acceptable techniques and issue ballast disposal permits.
--The DEQ to establish a ballast inspection program and assess fees to fund it.
Sikkema says he is rewording the bill to make clear that shippers would have to use only the best technology available, even while striving for 100 percent sterilization.
He also plans to make less stringent requirements of ships that operate only within the Great Lakes, as they do not bring in ballast from other ecosystems.
A bill pending in New York's legislature also would require ballast sterilization and directs regulators to set procedures. A similar measure was proposed in Minnesota this year but no action was taken before the legislature adjourned.
Legislation introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., calls for preventing the introduction of exotics via ballast water ''to the maximum extent practicable.'' It would direct the Department of Transportation to make regulations ''based on the best scientific information available.''
The bill is pending before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. No hearings are scheduled.
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