New invasive species bills have merit

One bill stands out as the better long-term solution.

Two feuding bills fighting their way through Congress, both claiming to alleviate the problem of invasive species in the Great Lakes, deserve serious consideration.

Currently, ships are required to exchange their ballast water when they move in and out of the Great Lakes area in an effort to minimize the number of invasive organisms that make it into the lakes – organisms such as zebra mussels, which have made themselves infamous by wreaking havoc all the way down the Mississippi River ecosystem.

The efforts are commendable but not effective enough. Organisms can still survive in the residual water that cannot be completed removed from the ships, so newer methods are needed to protect the lakes’ native species.

The first bill, the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act, is sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and cosponsored by Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn. It seems to be stagnant and needs a jump-start in the Senate. The act aims to phase out ballast water exchange and instead develop treatments that will safely kill invasive organisms. It also calls for research on invasive pathways and screening live organisms in the aquatic animal trade. Overall, this bill seems to call for a comprehensive solution for the problem at hand.

The competing bill, the Ballast Water Management Act, has already made it through the Senate Commerce Committee. It calls for much more stringent standards than those currently imposed, but will take more time to implement and keeps ballast exchange as the main safeguard against invasive species.

Officials from the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Natural Resource Center call the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act imperative to protect the lakes’ ecosystem from collapse. Even now, a new invasive species enters the lakes every eight months. Shipping groups are split on which legislation is better. But Levin and Dayton’s bill seems to provide the best long-term solutions and deserves more support than it has received so far. Invasive species can devastate an ecosystem by impacting economics and native wildlife. Congress must choose the solution that will best keep our nation’s biodiversity intact.