House OKs Invasive Species Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives approved Coast Guard legislation that includes language authored by U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH) to block the spread of invasive species into the Great Lakes and other waterways through ballast water.

 LaTourette's Ballast Water Treatment Act was included in the larger bill, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2007, or H.R. 2830. H.R. 2830 passed by a vote of 395 to 7 and will now face Senate consideration.

 "This has been a contentious but important process, and at the end of the day we came up with a bipartisan bill that will greatly help the Great Lakes and make shippers good stewards of the lakes and the environment," LaTourette said.

The bill requires ships in U.S. waters to install treatment systems to eradicate invasive species carried in the ship's ballast water. LaTourette said he and other members worked closely with environmental, conservation, and shipping groups to draft language suitable to all.

Until treatment standards are implemented next year, all vessels entering the Great Lakes and other ports will be required to rinse and empty their ballast tanks on the high seas before entering a U.S. port. Ships that conduct all their business within the Great Lakes and never leave the waters are largely exempt from the rules. However, they must use ballast technology to detect diseases and pathogens that could impact the fish population in the Great Lakes.

LaTourette said there are about 230 non-native aquatic species in the United States, and at least 70 percent – about 170 species -- can be found in the Great Lakes. Invasive species are both an environmental and economic menace, with zebra mussels alone costing $5 billion over 10 years just for cleaning infrastructure such as water intake pipes, filtration equipment, and power generating infrastructure. An annual eradication program for sea lampreys costs between $10 million and $15 million, LaTourette added.

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