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Resolution: Ballast Water Regulation
Whereas, ballast water discharge from vessels as a vector for the introduction and movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the freshwaters of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River remains an important concern for the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River; and
Whereas, the Great Lakes Commission recognizes and wishes to build upon the measures implemented by both the private sectors and government on both sides of the border with the result that no new ballast-borne species have been discovered in the Great Lakes since 2006; and
Whereas, the Canadian federal government has signed on to the regulatory regime and timetable advanced by the International Maritime Organization; and
Whereas, AIS in the Great Lakes impact such critical sectors of the regional economy as electric power generation, commercial and sport fishing, recreational boating and tourism, and public water supply; and
Whereas, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) exclusion for vessel discharges was legally challenged by several environmental organizations and Great Lakes States and struck down by the 9th Circuit Court, rendering all discharges incidental to normal vessel operations, including ballast water, unlawful, effective 2008, unless authorized by an NPDES permit, which is subject to certification by the states under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act that permitted discharges meet state water quality standards; and
Whereas, the Vessel General Permit (VGP) issued in December 2008 by the EPA includes 26 types of vessel discharges including ballast water and incorporated Section 401 Water Quality Certifications from individual states; and
Whereas, enactment of the U.S. Coast Guard rule on the federal ballast water discharge standard under the National Invasive Species Act, first promised in 2004 and eventually proposed in August of 2009, has been delayed by a prolonged review period; and
Whereas, installation of ballast water treatment technology will be a significant expense to the shipping industry, but treatment technology is under development, being tested and installed on some ships; and
Whereas, in the absence of adequate federal regulation of ballast water discharges and a protective federal standard for ballast water treatment, several Great Lakes states have adopted their own ballast water control and treatment requirements and imposed conditions on their Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certifications; and
Whereas, individual states’ requirements vary in implementation schedules and ballast water treatment performance standards, ranging from International Maritime Organization (IMO) equivalent standards to one thousand times IMO standards; and
Whereas, the Great Lakes Commission, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species, among other regional institutions, have consistently expressed a strong preference for protective federal ballast water treatment standards that may be applied uniformly throughout the region, as opposed to the current jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction regulatory approach; and
Whereas, the Canadian and U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation’s ballast water control and management regulations require all vessels entering waters under Canadian or U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation jurisdiction to manage ballast water for the prevention of AIS; and
Whereas, in 2010, 100 percent of vessels bound for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway from outside the Exclusive Economic Zone received a ballast tank exam (on each of the 415 transits) by joint inspection teams representing Transport Canada, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. and Canadian Seaway corporations to comply with the 30 part per thousand salinity requirement.
Therefore, be it resolved, that the Great Lakes Commission renews its call that the U.S. federal government enact national policies that encourage rapid development of ballast water treatment technologies and to enforce effective and achievable ballast water treatment standards that are protective of this region’s freshwater resources; and
Be it further resolved,that the Great Lakes Commission urges Congress and U.S. federal agencies to work closely with the Great Lakes states and offers its assistance to develop ballast water policies and standards that protect the Great Lakes basin from further invasion while maintaining a level national economic playing field; and
Be it further resolved, that the Great Lakes Commission urges U.S. EPA to consult with Great Lakes states during the development of its vessel general permit to facilitate a smooth and efficient certification procedure under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act; and
Be it further resolved, that the Great Lakes Commission urges U.S. EPA and the Coast Guard to consult with the shipping industry and interest groups that will be affected by the discharge regulations; and
Be it finally resolved, that the Great Lake Commission urges the Governments of Canada and the United States to pursue continued binational harmonization of federal ballast water treatment standards and enforcement mechanisms.
Adopted at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Great Lakes Commission, Detroit, Michigan, Oct. 11-12, 2011.