As the mayor of Wisconsin’s largest port city on the Great Lakes, I understand the importance of protecting this great resource from invasive species and other environmental hazards. But a new proposed permit by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regarding ballast water from ocean-going ships is so far over the top, it may likely sink Wisconsin’s shipping sector, and drag down manufacturing and farming with it.
If approved in its current form, it would put Wisconsin at a competitive disadvantage with our neighboring states, causing our ports to lose international shipping business and our state to lose jobs.
How far over the top is the proposal?
It would establish standards for the state that are 100 times more stringent than internationally recognized standards that other Great Lakes states have seen fit to adopt.
To add to this isolation, Wisconsin’s permit would take effect in 2012, four years earlier than our neighbors. The truth is that researchers are struggling to come up with the technology to meet the standards that our neighbors have adopted. No such onboard ballast water cleaning technology exists right now and likely won’t exist within the next three years. The Wisconsin DNR’s proposal for standards 100-times even greater may never be technologically feasible. Apparently this reality is not being considered as the DNR drafts it proposal.
The negative economic impact of these excessive standards is also not being considered. If this permit goes into affect, ocean-going vessels will be forced to avoid Wisconsin’s three major ports – Superior, Milwaukee and Green Bay – and do their business elsewhere, such as Duluth or Chicago. Our cities and communities would lose revenue, our port terminals would close and workers would be out of jobs in an already struggling economy.
The ripple affect to Wisconsin manufacturers and farmers will be increased costs to get their goods to the international marketplace, as they are forced to use truck or rail to reach alternate ports. Their ability to compete in very competitive markets, such as grain, will suffer.
Because meeting these proposed standards are unachievable, the proposed permit will do little to help protect our lakes, but is certain to harm our state’s economy.
Dave Ross is the mayor of the City of Superior.