Congresswoman Candice Miller, chairperson of the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, recently held a “first of its kind” congressional hearing at Anchor Bay High School in Ira Township, Michigan on the issue of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. The hearing focused on the introduction of invasive species like the zebra mussel into the Great Lakes by way of discharges from the ballast water of ships.
“It’s downright scary to think that there are at least 180 invasive species prowling on our precious Great Lakes water,” Representative Miller said. “We need federal agencies to tackle this problem in a more aggressive way.”
Local residents, as well as officials from the State of Michigan and federal agencies gave testimony at the hearing. Many of those who testified expressed frustration at the snail-like pace with which the Coast Guard has proceeded in addressing the ballast water problem. Current regulations exempt ships that declare No Ballast on Board (NOBOB) from requiring inspection, even though it has been documented that NOBOB ships can harbor live organisms. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox argued that the EPA should be the lead agency and not the Coast Guard – an argument backed up by a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said ballast water discharges should be regulated by EPA under the Clean Water Act.
It’s promising to see Representative Miller, an avid boater, bringing her colleagues from around the U.S. to the Lake Huron basin to discuss such a critical issue for the Great Lakes. Hopefully that spotlight will help generate some badly needed momentum to close the NOBOB loophole and pass the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act.