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.