Voinovich vows ‘second battle of Lake Erie’

Lawmaker gets behind ballast

By Thomas J. SheeranAssociated Press Writer

Cleveland – Lawmakers promised bipartisan cooperation in late
July for a push for stricter rules to combat an influx of invasive
species, including the voracious goby and pipe-clogging zebra
mussels that threaten the Great Lakes and its native fish.

Ohio’s Republican Sen. George Voinovich, at a news conference
overlooking Lake Erie, said more needs to be done to safeguard the
Great Lakes against a risk from aquatic invaders that can exist
even in low ballast-water levels inside ship holds.

‘I call it fighting the second Battle of Lake Erie,’ Voinovich

Voinovich said he and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., were
co-sponsoring a proposal for stronger regulation of freshwater
ballast from overseas ships. The ballast can introduce foreign
species, such as the goby, which eats the eggs of smallmouth bass,
perch, and other species. Gobies, among other invasives are
abundant in Lake Erie, which produces more sport fish than all of
the other Great Lakes combined.

State Rep. Michael Skindell, a Lakewood Democrat, said he has
Republican support at the state level for similar legislation. Such
proposals in most of the Great Lakes states could help establish
preferred national regulation, Skindell said.

At least 185 aquatic invaders have been identified in the Great
Lakes, including zebra and quagga mussels, which clog water pipes
and do more than $150 million worth of damage a year. The sea
lamprey was likely the first, entering through the Erie Canal in
1825, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

The ballast water is carried below deck of ocean-going vessels
to provide stability in the open water. When ballast is pumped into
ships at foreign ports, that ship will then carry the water – and
every creature in it – to other parts of the world. Coast Guard
regulations already instruct freighters bound for U.S. ports to
exchange ballast water while at sea.

But ships hauling cargo can get around the requirement by simply
declaring they aren’t carrying ballast. The Great Lakes provide
drinking water to about 40 million people and represent about 20
percent of the world’s supply of fresh water. The waters are key to
the region’s tourist economy and industrial base.

More than 500 ocean-going ships enter the Great Lakes annually,
according to the NWF.

DNR Director Sean Logan said the Democratic administration of
newly elected Gov. Ted Strickland, a former congressman, was
committed to working with lawmakers to reduce the threat.

‘The ships are still dumping their bilge here,’ Logan said.

Voinovich said the proposal that he and Levin are backing would
require ships declaring no ballast on board to use salt water to
flush tanks to kill any invasive fresh water species in ballast

The proposed federal legislation also would allow states to
direct special management plans for ships when new invasive species
are detected.

Voinovich, who in recent weeks has questioned the Bush
administration policies in Iraq, said funding might be hard to find
for an invasive species initiative because of the financial demands
of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan and homeland security

Voinovich’s newly elected colleague from Ohio, Democrat Sherrod
Brown, a longtime critic of the Iraq war, skipped the news
conference because of Senate business in Washington but sent an
aide to endorse efforts to combat invasive species.

Elizabeth Thames said Brown was committed to working to prevent
an embarrassing return ‘to that toxic time’ in 1969 when
Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, a Lake Erie tributary, caught fire,
making the city a symbol of urban environmental blight.

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