Lawmakers Weaken Regulations That Prevent Invasive Species in Great Lakes

Vote rolls back law that required stricter treatment of ballast water in foreign ships

An environmental law that received nearly unanimous bi-partisan support a decade ago is being rolled back by Michigan’s Republican lawmakers. The legislation, passed in 2005, added restrictions to how ocean-going ships dump ballast water in the Great Lakes. It required ships to use specific advanced technology to prevent invasive species from being released from holding tanks. But, Republicans in the state house and senate now say the restrictions put Michigan at a competitive disadvantage. Director of the Transnational Environmental Law Center at Wayne State University, Nick Schroeck says whatever the costs are to the shipping industry the costs to the environment are far greater. 

“Once invasive species are introduced into the Great Lakes, they’re very hard to rid of. We’ve seen that with the zebra mussels, the quagga mussels, the sea lamprey. The best thing is to prevent them from getting into the Great Lakes to begin with. Because once they’re here we just don’t get rid of them and it’s very expensive, it’s very costly.”

Schroeck says as far as scientists know, the protections put in place in 2005 made a significant difference.

“As far as we know there hasn’t been an invasive species (brought into) Michigan since this law has been in effect. And there’s also been some other federal rules, now, ocean going vessels are required to flush their ballast water tanks with salt water before they enter into the Great Lakes”

The changes made to the bill take away state requirements and revert instead to U.S. Coast Guard regulations. Governor Snyder and officials with the state Department of Environment Quality say they oppose the changes. The Governor says he’s considering whether he will veto the bill.


  • Amy Miller
    Amy has been working in public and commercial radio for the last 30 yrs. She is an award winning reporter and news anchor, born and raised in Detroit.