Thursday, December 3, 2009

Week of November 30, 2009

Group: don't wait on ballast rule

SAVE THE RIVER PLEA: Proposal would protect St. Lawrence, may take too long to implement


An environmental group is concerned that a new rule proposed by the U.S. Coast Guard requiring ships to clean up ballast tanks to prevent any new invasive species from entering the St. Lawrence River may take too long to implement.

The Coast Guard has a proposal that would require ships transiting any waters of the United States, including the St. Lawrence Seaway, to clean up their ballast tanks.

According to the legislation, the proposal would establish new procedures for approving onboard equipment to clean ballast water before discharge. For the first time, the regulation sets upper limits for the number of organisms per unit of ballast water. The current rules require vessels only to make mid-ocean ballast exchanges, a control technique that frequently has been attacked as inadequate to prevent the introduction of alien species into U.S. waters.

The effort, according to Jennifer J. Caddick, executive director of Save the River, would help prevent a problem facing the river's fish and wildlife: aquatic invasive species.

Over the years, the river has seen a number of invasive species change its environment and affect fish species, such as zebra mussels and round gobies. Zebra mussels have cleared up the river's water, and gobies threaten native fish species.

"These invaders threaten the river ecosystem, our regional economy and our way of life. This rule could be a groundbreaking regulation and could be the strongest effort yet in the fight to stop aquatic invasive species introductions," Ms. Caddick said.

However, she said, she believes the proposed rule allows polluters too much time to fix the problem, up to 10 years.

"We need to tell the Coast Guard in no uncertain terms that it needs to stop introductions of aquatic invasive species into the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes now," she said. Ms. Caddick said it's important for people to make their opinions heard.

"We know that the shipping industry is lining up in opposition to this new rule. It's important for the Coast Guard to hear directly from citizens, who are bearing the burden of invasive species damages, about the rules as well. The new regulation, if implemented with stronger deadlines, could be the most significant effort yet in the fight to stop aquatic invasive species introductions," Ms. Caddick said.

Save the River, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the ecological integrity of the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River, is asking concerned groups and individuals to submit comments to it by Friday at

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