Wisconsin DNR proposes relaxed ballast regulation
Wisconsin officials announced this week that ballast water regulations they adopted in February are too strict and should be relaxed. The Department of Natural Resources says the technology simply isn't available to comply with the strict ballast...
Wisconsin officials announced this week that ballast water regulations they adopted in February are too strict and should be relaxed.
The Department of Natural Resources says the technology simply isn't available to comply with the strict ballast-water filtration regulations developed last year and imposed by the state in February.
Instead, the DNR is proposing to scale-back regulations to those suggested by the International Maritime Organization.
The current state standards require filtration or killing of organisms 100 times smaller than the IMO standards. The rule change would put Wisconsin at the same filtration regulation level as Minnesota.
Experts "concluded that technology does not yet exist to verify whether a treatment system can rid ballast of water organisms effectively enough to meet Wisconsin's standard," the DNR announced.
The regulation has a big impact on ships that visit the port of Duluth-Superior. It's by far the most frequently used Wisconsin port for foreign ships and has been the hardest hit by foreign species.
Because there has been little action by the federal government on ballast-water treatment, several states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, have imposed their own standards for ships entering their ports. It's part of an effort to stem the tide of invasive species that can hitchhike into the Great Lakes, and then move around between the lakes, by stowing away in ballast tanks.
Invasives such as spiny water flea, goby, quagga mussels and ruffe all are suspected of riding in ballast to enter the Great Lakes, where they have caused economic and ecological harm.
The DNR has scheduled a public hearing on the change for Jan. 26 at the Superior Public Library at 9:30 a.m.
DNR officials note that they always had intended to revisit the standards at the end of 2010 to determine if they were feasible. Some environmental and fishing groups have asked for even more stringent and faster-acting regulations. But ship owners had complained since the Wisconsin regulation first was proposed that it couldn't be met.
Ships use water as ballast to help keep level and fore steering, especially when not fully loaded and during the loading process. Experiments are under way to test chemicals, ultraviolet light, centrifugal force, filters and temperature as ways to kill organisms in ships' ballast. So far, few have proven fully effective, and most are considered expensive and difficult to retrofit on existing ships.
Experts also note that recent efforts by ships to exchange ballast at sea, where saltwater might kill freshwater organisms that might thrive in the Great Lakes, already has helped reduce the number of new invaders.
Newly built ships must comply with Wisconsin's standards in 2012, with existing ships retrofitted with ballast treatment technology by 2014.
Minnesota enacted its ballast rules in 2008, giving ships until 2016 to start treating ballast and adopting the less-stringent IMO level of treatment. Minnesota's law goes further than Wisconsin's, however, by also applying treatment standards to Great Lakes freighters that never enter the ocean.