Written Testimony

James H. I. Weakley

President - Lake Carriers’ Association

 

Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

 

S. 525 – THE NATIONAL AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES ACT OF 2003

A bill to reauthorize the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990.

 

Dirksen Senate Office Building  ­  Room 406

Washington, DC

 

June 17, 2003

 

 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this legislation that is so crucial to both the maritime industry and the marine environment.  It is Lake Carriers’ Association’s concern that this bill be crafted such that both are well served.  We are generally supportive of S. 525.

 

LCA is a member of the Ballast Water Coalition.  Although I do not testify today on behalf of the Coalition, I will focus on the concerns of the shipping industry.

 

Lake Carriers’ Association represents 11 American corporations operating 57 U.S.-flag vessels exclusively on the Great Lakes.  Foreign-flag operators move cargo into the region from across the oceans.  We do not.  Our vessels typically move more than 100 million tons of cargo each year.  Those commodities include iron ore for the steel industry, coal for power generation, and limestone for the construction industry.  As you can see, tens of thousands of family-sustaining jobs depend on the efficient movement of cargo on the Great Lakes.  We not only earn our wages here, we recreate along the shores and drink from the world’s largest supply of fresh water.  It is a place we call home.

 

Lake Carriers’ Association has been leading efforts to find an invasive species solution for more than a decade.  In partnership with Government agencies, non-governmental agencies, and shippers, we’ve invested more than $4 million researching this complex problem.  Our projects evaluated several ballast water treatment methodologies and engineering solutions using a barge specifically designed for this purpose, as well as operational ships and land-based facilities.

 

Lake Carriers’ Association is committed to finding solutions to the worldwide problem of ballast water transport of nonindigenous species.  Upon learning of the discovery of the ruffe in Duluth/Superior Harbor in the late 1980s, LCA produced the Voluntary Ballast Water Management Program.  Deemed the “cutting edge of technology” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, our voluntary efforts have largely contained the ruffe.  In addition, we have instituted other voluntary practices to reduce the threat of transferring other aquatic nuisance species within the Great Lakes.  These practices represent our industry’s commitment to slowing what is inevitable – the migration of newly-arrived exotics.

 

For example, the ruffe is migrating along the southern shore of Lake Superior of its own volition.  Therefore, we must focus our energies on prevention of new exotics into the Lakes and all U.S. waters.  The Lakes, like many waterways, are naturally connected; so absent a natural predator, any fish, insect, or plant introduced into one Great Lake can and will migrate to the others.  Like it or not, the ruffe, the zebra mussel, and the sea lamprey, to mention a few, are here to stay.

 

I must emphasize that this issue is not limited to the Great Lakes Basin.  The West Coast of the United States and the Chesapeake Bay have been significantly threatened and remain vulnerable to new invasions.  Vessels engaged on international voyages and foreign-flag vessels sailing between U.S. ports also pose a risk.

 

Internationally, the topic is being debated at the International Maritime Organization.  Australia struggles with the same issues and continues to deal with invasive species.  Since the United States is the world’s largest trading partner, what we do impacts the world shipping community in ways that no other country can.  Much of the debate in the international community seems to be focusing on what the standard will be and how to implement it.  An alternative to the percent based standard in S. 525, a standard based on the number of organisms living above a certain size in the treated ballast water has been proposed at IMO.

 

It is my sense that this alternative standard is growing in support at IMO and in the international community.  I think that standard does have merit as an alternative and it seems to be where the debate is moving to, for the following reasons:

 

a)       It is more clearly defined and, from an engineering perspective, easier to design to — engineers like tight design definitions.

 

b)       From a testing and verification perspective, it may also be easier to measure and enforce.

 

c)       Also, it may be more practical for manufacturers to build to that standard.

 

The primary problem with the 95 percent approach is its vagueness.  Ninety-five percent of what?  Even the biologists and scientists may have a hard time agreeing.  With all of the biological differences in various water samples across a wide spectrum of sizes from different ecosystems, engineers would find it difficult to develop a system to meet the requirement.
It also may be byzantine to design a testing protocol to evaluate equipment based on the
95 percent standard.

 

At IMO, I think there is a good chance that the standard may be changed from that of a percent approach to one of an organisms alive above a size in a standard volume of water.  It makes sense for the U.S. standard to be compatible with the international standard.  I also believe we will act on this long before IMO reaches consensus and enacts anything.  If we lead, others will follow.

 

From a risk perspective, the question is:  Is there a greater risk by allowing 5 percent of all the biota to remain alive or some unknown amount below a certain size and a specific number of organisms above that size to enter the ecosystem?  Either methodology does a better job of protecting the ecosystem than what we have now, and both focus on prevention.

 

In addition to prevention, there are several other themes for addressing this issue:  a clearly defined and practical treatment standard; a Federal solution with worldwide application, robust data collection and technological research systems; and the grandfathering of treatment systems and vessels.  I believe that the above approach will lead to a variety of solutions.  From a shipboard perspective, the critical variables include:  the volume of ballast water; pumping rate; length of voyage; time in port; trade pattern; and vessel design.  The complexity of these variables makes a single solution difficult, if not impossible.

 

Although we respect the role of State Governments, an appropriate Federal solution would not only adequately address the problem, it would save the States’ enforcement dollars.  This is exactly the type of problem that requires a regional and, therefore, Federal solution.  Can you imagine the complexities of trying to comply with different regulations promulgated by the eight States that share the Lakes?

 

I want to thank the Committee for your commitment to finding solutions to this problem and conclude by saying we must recognize those exotics that have established themselves in the Great Lakes are now citizens in all but name.  Even the very successful and sophisticated efforts of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission have resulted in the control of but not the elimination of the sea lamprey.  Therefore, our goal MUST BE the prevention of additional introductions via the ballast water on ocean-going vessels.

 

Thank you.