Minnesota DFLers propose inspections of ocean-going freighters possibly carrying non-native species
Written by Homwtown Source   
Wednesday, 23 November 2005 11:54

Alarmed by the prospects of killer shrimp or other exotic stowaways being pumped into the Great Lakes, Minnesota DFLers are proposing inspections of ocean-going freighters plying Lake Superior.

Attorney General Mike Hatch and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, are pursuing legislation to require that all ocean-going ships capable of discharging ballast — water carried for stability and sometime amounting to millions of gallons — in Minnesota waters must have a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) permit.

The permit, issued by MPCA or the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), would be granted after officials make sure the ships have treatment methods to destroy or remove non-native species from their ballast.

This could include filtration, heat — getting down in the ship’s bilge and shoveling out sludge, explained Hatch, who as a young man worked for a time on a Great Lakes freighter.

“This is an easy one — at least I think it’s an easy one,” said Hatch of passing the legislation, modeled after a bill passed by Michigan in 2005.

The DFLers propose their legislation be effective in 2008.

Hatch and Rest said they didn’t know whether additional MPCA or DNR staff would be needed to carry out ship inspections, but Hatch opined the cost for additional staff, if needed, could be paid for out of inspection fees.

Minnesota waters extend 50 miles out into Lake Superior.

There’s need for the legislation, the DFLers argued.

According to the DFLers, one Canadian study lists Duluth Harbor as one of the hot spots for invasive species in the Great Lakes.

More than two dozen foreign aquatic species are found in the harbor, including the prolific zebra mussel — an exotic recently discovered in the Upper Mississippi River — with one non-native fish, the Eurasian Ruffe, the most common fish in the vast harbor.

It’s believed that dumped ballast water out of the holds of foreign, ocean-going ships introduced three-quarter of the 187 exotic species into the Great Lakes, according to the DFLers.

According to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the port is visited by more than 1,000 vessels a year — only a fraction of these are foreign vessels, though.

Among potential new invasive species scientist are worried about, warned DFLers, is an exotic shrimp, a “killer shrimp,” known for its limitless appetite.

Another is a herring native to the Caspian Sea, which takes over habitat and reduces the number of native fish.

Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, will carry the inspection legislation in the House. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, said in his three years of chairing the policy committee, no DNR or MCPA official had ever mentioned inspecting ship’s ballast. “I’m interested in learning more about it,” he said.

In July, Hatch, along with five other Great Lakes attorney generals, wrote to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in opposition to a ballast water management bill, arguing the bill, among other things, preempts state’s rights to enforce laws pertaining to ballast.

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