Nov 25, 2009

Wisconsin DNR Announces Start of State Ballast Water Regulation of Great Lakes Ships

Measure to stop flow of invasive species arriving in ballast water

Wisconsin will start regulating oceangoing ships arriving in its Great Lakes waters at the start of the next shipping season, Feb. 1, 2010, to stop the flow of invasive species arriving in its ballast water.

“We can’t afford to wait any longer for the federal government to turn off the tap,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Matt Frank. “The threat is too great and the cost too high for our Great Lakes waters and our inland lakes and streams.”

Ballast water is the main source of harmful new aquatic invaders to the Great Lakes and Wisconsin’s inland waters, according to Wisconsin DNR. Wisconsin joins New York, Michigan and Minnesota in regulating ballast water. Along with New York, Wisconsin will have some of the toughest standards in the Great Lakes.

“This isn't just a regulatory action--our goal is to be a catalyst as well,” Frank said. “We are pushing treatment technology forward by setting a numerical standard the ballast water must meet.

“Through Wisconsin’s participation in the Great Ships Initiative and work with other Great Lakes states, we are supporting the development of innovative technology that will provide the greatest level of protection possible against aquatic invasives being released from ballast water discharges.”

Large ships take on and release “ballast” water at ports to steady themselves and compensate for changes in cargo weights as they are loaded and unloaded.

DNR is issuing a general permit that will require large commercial vessels to take basic steps right away to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species. They must follow best management practices for handling ballast tank sediment, seawater and certain other substances. These requirements apply to both oceangoing ships and “lakers,” the big ships that travel between Great Lakes ports.

Starting Jan. 1, 2012, new oceangoing ships also must treat their ballast water to reduce the number of live plants, animals and organisms in it to meet specific numerical standards. The Wisconsin standard is 100 times more restrictive than the level set by the International Maritime Organization, according to Wisconsin DNR. Existing oceangoing ships have until 2014 to retrofit to meet the same standard.