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Published: Wednesday, 8/15/2007

Ohio bill seeks controls on ballast discharge


COLUMBUS - Ohio would be empowered to regulate the discharge of ballast water from oceangoing ships into portions of Lake Erie under state control under a bill to be introduced today in the Ohio House.

Designed to compensate for a lack of federal action to control the spread of exotic invasive species like the zebra mussel, the bill would require the state Department of Natural Resources to develop a permitting and ship inspection system.

The move follows the lead of Michigan, which enacted similar legislation that took effect

Jan. 1. Ohio's bill, to be introduced by Rep. Mike Skindell (D., Lakewood) would require Ohio to act on its own while simultaneously working with other Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces to develop a uniform standard for the entire lake.

Mr. Skindell is following through with a promise made at a press conference last month with the bipartisan backing of U.S. Sens. George Voinovich and Sherrod Brown.

The bill would require oceanic ships that discharge and take on water to stabilize their weight as they load and unload cargo at Ohio ports to first receive a state permit. To get the permit they would have to either promise not to discharge ballast water or do so only when using technology or methods preventing the introduction of invasive organisms carried from foreign ports.

The Zebra mussel, for instance, has been found to clog water intake pipes from Lake Erie.

Fines of at least $25,000 would be imposed for each violation with the proceeds being used to fund pest cleanup and prevention efforts.

The Ohio General Assembly is currently in summer recess and won't return to Columbus until mid-September at the earliest.

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