Less than two ships a day!

Less than two ships a day!

At the July meeting of the Southtowns Walleye Association of WNY, it was good to hear the outrage of the members about aquatic invasive species. It all started after NYS DEC Lake Erie Unit Manager, Don Einhouse's presentation when some one asked about transporting emerald shiners and VHS. The debate was heated but finally settled on how do we stop the next invasion. The consensus was, even if we can contain VHS something else is coming and it could be worse.

Shippers and conservationist groups all agree that ships bring in the bulk of the invasive species in their ballast water. Shippers will not spend the $1 million plus per ship for onboard treatment systems until the government sets the treatment level. The big hitch is our government has not been able to say how effective the treatment needs to be or the acceptable level of living organisms in ballast water. (I believe the level is simple because we can not afford any new invader to come in to jeopardize the fishery and human health, zero tolerance for living organisms.) Whose fault is it, the politicians who do not have a clue as to the severity of the problem or the shipping lobby? I can almost understand ignorant politicians, but they have to ask the experts when they do not know the answer that is their job. If they are too ignorant to research the issue it is time to fire a few and get someone in there who will get the job done.

Why would the shipping lobby try to stall the efforts for legislation when they agree that ballast water is the vector for aquatic invasive species invasion? Simple the more stringent the treatment level the more it will cost them to refit ships. Some ships may even be impossible to refit to meet the toughest treatment levels, zero discharge of living organisms.

There has been debate by conservation groups and political leaders about closing the St Lawrence Seaway to all ocean vessels until a way can be found to stop ballast water invaders. The argument against the closure is it will cost too much for shipping around the Great Lakes. Before we look at cost consider this, since the opening of the Seaway in 1959 overseas shipping on the Great Lakes has been in a steady decline. The reasons are many but a big reason is our industrial centers have shifted to the southern states and overseas. There is less than two overseas ships a day entering the Great Lakes. At this level it makes the Seaway a luxury not a necessity.

A federally funded study released in mid July said invasive species dumped into the Great Lakes is costing the economy $200 million dollars a year. The cost of closing the Seaway in added transportation would be $55 million a year. We do know there is an average of two new species introductions a year, we do not know the environmental or the economic impacts for each new species. It could be benign or deadly. If we close the Seaway we get stuck with a $255 million dollar bill a year (the cost of the present invaders never goes away). If we leave it open we gamble that we will not get any new invaders that will impact the ecosystem, human health, or the economy. If we use history as our guide we can expect that $200 million dollar bill to grow. Since I am using the most recent study IÕll go with that figure but some figures would lead you to believe the current cost is much higher. Wisconsin did a study they said zebra mussel control cost Wisconsin Electric Power Company $1.2 million a year. The estimated annual cost of controlling zebra mussels in the Great Lakes now range from $100 to $400 million, according to NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory Director Dr. Stephen Brandt. (A government agency we paid to study the issue.) Sea Lamprey control costs over $30 million a year for treatment and research. The bottom line is the $200 million figure is, the very conservative cost could actually be much higher.

What will a new invader cost? At least several million dollars for research. We can not afford another invader just on an economic basis.

At less than two ocean ships a day the Seaway is a luxury. In this era of economic difficulties we should close it. We will protect the ecosystem from invasive species in addition we will save the operation fees. We wonÕt need to pay the high salaries for commissioners. The money saved could be used for rehabilitating the damage already done to the environment caused by the Seaway operation. At less than two ships a day what the heck do the people manning the locks do all day? Folks we are wasting money.

Get outraged! Less than two ships a day and we are killing the fishery and ecosystem! Get outraged, call your congressman and tell him he has his priorities wrongÉ protecting human health should be number one, the ecosystem should be next and followed by our economy. He can do it in one simple stepÉ CLOSE THE CANAL! GET OUTRAGED! IF YOUR CONGRESSMAN CANÕT GET THE JOB DONEÉ. GET OUTRAGED AND FIRE HIM! YOU HAVE THE POWER YOU HIRED HIM; DONÕT LET HIM FORGET IT! LESS THAN TWO SHIPS A DAY IT IS OUTRAGEOUS!

by Tom Marks

 

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