Peters Amendment to Protect Great Lakes from Invasive Species Included in Bill Passed by Commerce Committee

WASHINGTON, DC – An amendment offered by U.S. Senator Gary Peters to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species transported via ballast water of seafaring ships was included in the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) that passed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee with bipartisan support today. Peters’ amendment would amend VIDA to require vessels entering the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway to flush their ballast water tanks before entry.

“The Great Lakes are an integral part of Michigan’s economy, supporting thousands of jobs in our state’s fishing, agriculture and tourism industries,” said Senator Peters. “Threats from contamination and invasive species put Michigan’s economic and environmental health at risk, and we must do everything we can to safeguard our Great Lakes for years to come. This amendment will help protect the Great Lakes and promote a strong economic future for Michigan.”

Senator Peters’ amendment would require the Coast Guard to ensure that vessels entering the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway exchange their ballast water while still at sea and flush their tanks before entry, which will help prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes. These best management practices are proven, effective techniques to reduce the risk of invasive species transfer from ballast water and should be maintained.

“Ballast is the leading way for aquatic invaders to gain entry to the Great Lakes. Preventing these organisms from gaining entry and getting established is the only way to truly protect our waters. We support Senator Peters' amendment,” said Dan Wyant, Director of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Ballast water is taken onto or discharged from a ship as it loads or unloads cargo to accommodate changes in the ship’s weight. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30 percent of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) were introduced into the Great Lakes through ballast water discharges.

Invasive species, like the zebra mussel, threaten the Great Lakes, and the shipping, tourism and agriculture industries the Great Lakes support, by disrupting food chains, interfering with power plants and water treatment facilities and even increasing algae production that can have harmful health affects for humans, fish and wildlife.

Senator Peters has long been a strong advocate for Michigan’s Great Lakes and the thousands of shipping, tourism and agriculture jobs supported by the Great Lakes. He is a member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and he has aggressively fought for funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. He recently cosponsored the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act (GLEEPA), which would bolster ongoing efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes.