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New bill could roll back Great Lakes protections, let in invasive species

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Creative Commons
Zebra mussels attach to hard surfaces and can damage infrastructure.

A new federal bill up for a vote in Congress Thursday could hurt efforts to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species.

An amendment to a Coast Guard bill would loosen regulations against ballast water discharges by cargo ships. Experts say this is one way that invasive species enter new environments.

Marc Smith is Regional Conservation Director for the National Wildlife Federation. He says the harm from invasive species is well known.

"So why would we want to remove protections to keep invasive species out of our Great Lakes moving forward? It's really unacceptable," Smith said.

Experts believe zebra mussels were brought to the Great Lakes from Eastern Europe by ballast water. They are known to damage infrastructure and kill native life in new environments. 

Smith says this bill would be one in a series of attacks against environmental protections as of late.

"From EPA budget cuts to removing protections against ballast water, there seems to be a constant barrage of attacks on basic non-partisan values like clean water," he said.

Great Lakes conservationists have been working to reverse the damage done by invasive species.

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