Bad ballast water bill may be voted on tomorrow – contact your U.S. Representative today and urge they protect Minnesota waters from AIS introductions.

A bad bill is being considered in Congress as early as tomorrow, Friday, November 4. It would derail progress in the effort to protect Lake Superior and other Great Lakes from aquatic invasive species introduced in the ballast water tanks of foreign ships and spread by ballast water discharges of intra Great Lakes vessels.

We need your help today – contact your U.S. Representative and urge he or she defeat this bad bill.


Since 2007 Minnesota Trout Unlimited has been very actively working to fight the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (“AIS”) in Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes.  Ballast water discharges from both ocean going and intra Great Lakes ships are a primary source of AIS such as zebra mussels, VHS, gobies, and dozens of other invasive species which may ultimately spread to all Minnesota waters.   MNTU has been working with various partner groups to support the progress being made by Minnesota and other Great Lakes states, and to prevent recent attempts to undermine protections for our waters.

Today we learned that a bill which weakens the regulation of Great Lakes ballast water discharges (protecting shipping industry to the detriment of fisheries, the environment, and the public) has been added to the US Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill, HR 2838.  HR 2838 may be up for a vote on the floor of the US House as early as tomorrow!  We now need your calls to your U.S. Representatives urging that Title VII of HR 2838 be removed from the bill, or if that fails they vote “no” on the whole bill.

While this is very short notice, it is unavoidable given today’s surprise procedural move.

We need your calls to your U.S. Representatives urging that Title VII of HR 2838 be removed from the bill, or if that fails they vote “no” on the whole bill.

How to locate and contact your Representative

You can quickly locate your representative’s name and contact information through this link (there are others as well):

Some detail:

HR 2838, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011, is being amended to include provisions which will derail progress on cleaning up ship ballast tanks and stopping aquatic invasive species introductions.  Aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and round gobies, are one of the most significant environmental threats to the health of Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. Many of these invaders will sooner or later be spread to Minnesota’s inland lakes and rivers.  Invasive species foul beaches, wreak havoc on fisheries, clog water intake valves of cities and utilities, harm fish and wildlife, and cost the hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The House of Representatives now appears set to vote as early as tomorrow on the Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011 (Title VII of HR2838). This bill imposes a weak standard which is inadequate to prevent more AIS introductions and it preempts stronger state rules.  HR 2838 does not protect Lake Superior, other Great Lakes, Minnesota’s inland waters, or our nation’s waters; instead it protects the shipping industry at Minnesota’s expense.  The bottom of this message contains more details.  A coalition letter which MNTU had a hand in producing can be found under the Conservation tab on the mntu website: or click here. Look for the November 2, 2011 letter in the “Ballast documents” section.  It contains greater detail about the provisions.

Talking Points for Calling or Writing Your Legislator:

  • I am your constituent
  • I am calling/writing to urge [insert Member's Name] to oppose the Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011 (Title VII of HR2838)
  • Aquatic invasive species are one of the most serious threats to Lake Superior and ultimately all Minnesota lakes and rivers
  • Zebra mussels are just one example of an invasive species first introduced and spread in the ballast tanks of Great Lakes ships which ultimately spread to MN’s inland lakes
  • The weak standard proposed in HR 2838 (the IMO standard) is inadequate to protect Lake Superior and Minnesota waters.  This bill will prevent Minnesota from adopting a stronger ballast standard, and will preempt New York’s existing standard.
  • I urge [insert Member's Name] to delete the bad ballast water amendments – Title VII from HR 2838 – and to vote against the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011 (HR 2838) if those provisions remain
  • Thank you for protecting Lake Superior and all Minnesota waters


Additional detailed background which may be useful:

Why Title VII (the “Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011”) of HR 2838 is bad for Minnesota and should be defeated:

HR 2838:

  1. Sets a standard (International Maritime Organization or “IMO”) that still allows some invasive species to enter Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. The State of Minnesota will review its standard in 2013 or earlier and may adopt a stronger standard to protect Lake Superior and inland waters from invasive species.  This bill would prevent this.
  2. Delays even the weak IMO standard by up to 10 years;
  3. Prevents Minnesota, other states, and the EPA from setting or enforcing standards that are truly protective;
  4. Makes it difficult, if not impossible, to add new protections, even if the EPA and other agencies determine that the IMO standard is not doing the job;
  5. Stops citizens from being able to enforce the law.

Bottom line: this bill does not protect Lake Superior, other Great Lakes, Minnesota’s inland waters, or the nation’s waters; it protects the shipping industry. It derails progress being made to set a strong national policy to stop invasive species from entering the Great Lakes via ships’ ballast water discharge and being spread among the Great Lakes by intra lake vessels.

Why Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) amendment does not adequately fix HR 2838.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY)  is planning to offer an amendment that he hopes will improve the bill’s preemption measures. But the amendment is not effective, since:

  • The standards for ships entering the Great Lakes remain too weak, are delayed, and are almost impossible to improve over time.
  • State laws like those in Minnesota, New York and Michigan would be preempted. The Bishop amendment says it allows the states to set standards, but provides that states cannot require technologies that go beyond the weak IMO or delayed federal standards unless the state gets approval by the Coast Guard and EPA. That approval is highly unlikely for Minnesota or any other state under the bill. A state would have to prove to the EPA that its waters deserve special protection and the risk for new invaders is imminent, and prove to the Coast Guard that its standard would not adversely affect shipping. The amendment has one approval criterion – demonstrating the standard would address “propagule pressure” (the existing population of the invasive organism) –which is impossible to show before an invasion occurs.  Once there is propagule pressure in the Great Lakes the invader is already present in high numbers and prevention measures make little difference then.
  • Citizen enforcement remains barred.

Index to key provisions in HR 2838:

  1. Deadlines for IMO: first dry docking after 2014 or 2016. CWA 321 (b)(4)
  2. IMO is the standard : 321 (c)
  3. CG review of standard by 2016 and then every 10 years. 321(d)
    1. Based on commercial availability (321(d)(2)(iv)).
    2. Must be by rule, 321(d)(3), and must be 2 orders of magnitude more restrictive, (B).
  4. Vessels can only use technologies certified by CG as meeting IMO (or stricter standard if required):  321(e)(1)(D)(i)
  5. Once a vessel installs a certified technology, it is exempt from new ballast standards as long as the ship and technologies are operational. 321(e)(3).
  6. No more regulation under NPDES permit, 321(j)
  7. Preempts state laws, 321(k) and especially (k)(6)
  8. Repeals 16 USC 4711 (regulations) and 16 USC 4725 (relationships with other laws).

Other background:

More than 65% of the invasive species entering the Great Lakes since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 have arrived in the ballast tanks of oceangoing cargo vessels.

Thank you for acting to protect Lake Superior and all Minnesota waters.