In an effort to better manage the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) and to close the open pathways for invaders, a package of bills has been introduced in the state House of Representatives calling for the creation an Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Council within the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and outlining the council’s duties.
Over 180 AIS from around the world have made their home in the Great Lakes Basin, posing a threat to Michigan’s Great Lakes and inland waters by competing with native species for food and habitat, preying on native species, disrupting ecosystem stability, impacting water quality, as well as commercial and recreational activities, and costing millions of dollars in prevention and control.
House Bill (HB) 4828, sponsored by state Rep. Amanda Price (R-Holland), calls for the actual creation of the council, which would be comprised of the directors of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the DEQ, the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) or their designees, as well as the state attorney general or his designee and representatives from various organizations and industries in the Great Lakes region.
The council would be required to meet quarterly and may adopt bylaws governing its organization and procedure. All members of the council would serve without additional compensation, although they may be reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties as members of the council.
HB 4828 also specifies that the AIS Advisory Council would provide a recommendation to the DEQ on a final update to the Michigan Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan, which is being updated this year for the first time since 2002.
The purpose of the AIS Advisory Council is further outlined in HB 4826, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Foster (R-Pelston), which requires the council to submit a report of recommendations for legislation to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS through trade — including the aquarium, bait, pet, water garden, horticulture, aquaculture, and shipping trades. The council would be asked to make recommendations with regards to risk assessment processes to screen aquatic species — classified as “prohibited,” “permitted,” or “restricted” — and to screen pathways of the introduction and spread of AIS. The council also would be expected to establish a program for aquatic species in trade to determine that aquatic species are disease- and pest-free.
Another task of the council would be to give recommendations on establishing an education program on safe-usage practices for buyers and sellers of aquatic species.
The council is also expected to cooperate and consult with other Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces to strengthen regional programs, as well as to consult with representatives of organizations and businesses that deal with organisms in trade.
Meanwhile, HB 4827 requires the council to develop recommendations on Michigan’s comments on the Draft Next Vessel General Permit, which is issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The council is also asked to include a proposed ballast water treatment standard, as ballast water is one of the main means of AIS introduction in the Great Lakes region.
The bills have all been referred to the House Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Committee.