Statement on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011

Nov 4, 2011

Mr. Chairman,

I strongly support the Dingell/Slaughter amendment and urge its adoption by the House.

This is not primarily a shipping issue, or a sportsman’s issue, or an issue for the environmental community.  For me, it’s a Great Lakes issue.  I believe that all sides of this debate support reasonable and achievable ballast water standards that are protective of our nation’s aquatic ecosystems against the spread of invasive species.  But we can do better than the standards that have been grafted onto this Coast Guard bill.

I represent Lake St. Clair, which is a small but important lake in the Great Lakes system.  The lake is heavily used for fishing, boating, and swimming, and it is a source of drinking water for millions.  Lake St. Clair is also ground zero for the invasion of zebra mussels in the United States.  In the mid-1980s, a ship that had come from a port in Europe dumped its ballast water into Lake St. Clair.  From that moment, we have fought a losing battle against the zebra mussels.  They have spread throughout the Great Lakes and gone on to invade the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and beyond.  The zebra mussels have literally changed the very ecology of the Great Lakes.  Millions of dollars are spent each year trying to control them.

Unfortunately, the zebra mussels are not an isolated incident.  Hundreds of non-indigenous aquatic invaders have made their way into the Great Lakes in the ballast water of ships.  At long last, it’s time for the United States to adopt strong ballast water discharge standards.  It is the failure of the federal government and this Congress to do so that has prompted the states to take action.  

The proposed ballast water standards in the bill before the House are inadequate and risk further damage to the Great Lakes and other aquatic ecosystems in the United States.  I cannot support them.  I urge the House to adopt the Dingell/Slaughter amendment.