WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved Coast Guard authorization legislation that includes a provision environmentalists say will help keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Michigan’s entire 15-member delegation to Congress voted for the legislation, which passed 395-7 today. It now goes to the Senate, which had already passed a Coast Guard authorization bill, for the two to be reconciled. An earlier veto threat from the White House was apparently worked out to the satisfaction of House Republicans by a change in one of the bill’s provisions.

Perhaps most importantly to the Great Lakes states, the legislation will force ocean-going vessels coming into the Great Lakes to flush their hulls of ballast water 200 miles outside of the U.S. And beginning in 2012, vessels will be required to have treatment systems to purify ballast water from invasive species.

Empty tankers take on ballast water to keep their ships stable and then, before entering port, flush the water – even though it may have come from other parts of the world. That flushing can in some cases release invasive species: the zebra mussel, blamed for choking pipes and crowding out other species with its rapid reproduction, is one example cited by environmentalists.

“We need the Senate and president t complete what the House started and finally shut th door on invasive species introduced through ballast water discharge,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. “If this effort sinks, all of our nation’s great waters will suffer devasting and irreversible damage.”

The Senate has moved a ballast water bill out of committee but it has yet to come to the floor for a vote. Meanwhile, the Bush administration noted concerns with the House version – saying it could lead to recreational boaters needing discharge permits – but did not signal that those concerns would necessarily lead to a veto.

Full Story: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080424/NEWS07/80424090