Michigan’s ballast water restriction in Great Lakes hasn’t worked

I was disappointed to see Bridge Magazine mischaracterize the effort to fix Michigan’s broken ballast water regulations. The recent op-ed from Phil Power relies on hysteria, not facts, and the record deserves to be corrected on this issue given its importance to Michigan’s economy.

MORE COVERAGE: Michigan GOP to invasive species: Welcome to the Great Lakes

Michigan’s ballast water restrictions – the most stringent in place in the Great Lakes – were well-intentioned when they were passed more than a decade ago. Leaders from both parties supported the measure based on the promise that if Michigan led the way, other states and provinces would follow.

That simply hasn’t happened, and it doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

It’s been a dozen years, and no state or Canadian province has joined Michigan. As a result, our restriction is totally meaningless when it comes to protecting the Great Lakes against invasive species.

Dan Meeuwsen is a senior manager at Zeeland Farm Services, which provides a range of agricultural and transportation services.

During House and Senate hearings on House Bill 5095, which would align our policy with other states and the U.S. Coast Guard, the only argument from environmental groups and the state  Department of Environmental Quality was that Michigan should continue to wait, fingers crossed, and hope for others to follow.

These same stakeholders said the same thing when the bill was approved in 2005. They’ve said it over the years whenever policymakers rightly ask why no progress is being made. They said it again this month.

The fact is, other states aren’t coming along. As long as Michigan chooses to stand alone, the only real impact on our state is economic harm.

Right now, ships bypass our state altogether and take their business to other Great Lakes ports like the Port of Toledo, Port of Indiana or Thunder Bay. Vessel transportation is off the table as an option for industries like agriculture – unless products are trucked to an out-of-state port, adding to shipping costs. Meanwhile, Michigan port communities are shut off from a key economic opportunity.

House Bill 5095 will put Michigan back on the map as a viable destination for oceangoing vessels for export, expanding options for agriculture and other industries, and sparking economic development in Michigan port communities.

It will have no detrimental impact on the Great Lakes, because the current policy is totally meaningless from an invasive species perspective because other states and provinces allow ballast water discharge.

This was a well-intentioned policy that hasn’t worked. Rather than rely on hyperbole and hope, lawmakers need to take a hard look at the lost economic opportunity resulting from our ballast water policy, do the right thing, and get it fixed.

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Sat, 11/18/2017 - 3:10pm

Did anyone read the actual laws? There seems to be a lot of undue hysteria.

John Saari
Sun, 11/19/2017 - 7:17am

We should be sterilizing and cleaning the hull of all entries. We should take the responsibility to ensure we remain pure from the abduction of migrants to our shores.(INVASIVE. SPECIES)

Stephen C Brown
Sun, 11/19/2017 - 10:47am

Then how about working for a Federal law? You have no concerns about this, even from just an economic point-of-view?

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 2:35pm

The Federal law came into effect in 2012. Just in the past year have commercial treatment systems have become available that meet the global discharge standards and have the right approvals.

The Michigan law did not have a discharge standard, it just dictated treatment dose levels for water. That is flawed control logic as some species may have a dose immunity higher than the Michigan level.

The federal (and international) discharge standard is a set number of living organisms. Why should the world follow Michigan's weird, ineffective law?

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 12:50pm

1) How do you quantify that this law hasn't worked?
2) Just because we passed the requirement first is called leadership.
3) Won't this become just another target for terrorism without controls on ballast water? Ruining the water by adding invasive species or who knows what else can be dumped in the Great Lakes that could contaminate our drinking water, our fishing industry or our tourism are what we are trying to protect! The invasive species problem (there are over 180 different invasive species) could easily eliminate native Great Lakes fish without controls.
4) I doubt very much that we have lost shipping/commercial traffic in Michigan ports due to the ballast water requirements. Ships can't just "bypass" Michigan.
5) The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada does cover invasive species as well as many other aspects of controlling problem areas of the Great Lakes. The following list is taken from the International Water Quality Agreement:
(a) Oil and Hazardous Polluting Substances;
(b) Garbage;
(c) Wastewater and Sewage;
(d) Biofouling;
(e) Antifouling Systems; and
(f) Ballast Water;

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 10:56am

How about a toll-booth under the Mackinac Bridge - All ships entering from foreign ports to pay a pollution tax for all discharges. That would at least get Illinois, Wisconsin & Indiana in line.

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 4:31pm

Please provide more data on this loss of shipping traffic. We need to increase all protections of the Great Lakes. Rather than wait & see, we need to actively lobby other states & Canada to increase their protections. Do we believe you with no data? Or should we believe MIT?


We can only hope that Snyder will do the right thing & veto this bill.