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Leaders say stricter ballast standards will harm Seaway shipping, cost jobs

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OGDENSBURG — The operators of the Port of Ogdensburg claim that ballast water standards called for by the head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation will harm chances for an economic recovery along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

“Little do we realize that a $30 to $40 billion industry is being affected, involving almost 500,000 jobs,” Samuel J. LaMacchia, chairman of the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, said at its meeting last week.

Wednesday, DEC Commissioner Joseph J. Martens sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urging that a stronger set of national ballast regulations be adopted.

The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority board of directors complained that the stricter requirements will drive business away from the Seaway.

“It is not technologically possible to meet the state of New York standard,” said Wade A. Davis, OBPA executive director. “The shippers will bypass the Seaway entirely because they cannot comply.”

Ships carry ballast water to maintain stability.

The national standards called for by the DEC would set ballast discharge standards for new ships at a level 100 times stronger than the International Maritime Organization recommendations. National standards proposed by the EPA are far less stringent, board members said.

“New York state is out of line with what the rest of states are doing and what shippers are prepared to do,” Mr. Davis said. “A shipping line is not going to install a new multimillion-dollar ballast system on Seaway vessels.”

At issue is the transit of invasive species into the Seaway and other New York waterways in the ballast tanks of ships.

“Non-native species, like the zebra mussel or the round gobies, out-compete our native species for habitat and their food,” said Jennifer J. Caddick, executive director of Save the River, Clayton. “We’ve seen this sort of direct impact on our native species, and we’re concerned.”

Members of the board argue that DEC should not be able to enforce standards on an international waterway.

“It is federal navigational waters. The feds should be handling it,” said Frederick J. Carter, OBPA vice chairman.

The authority feels confident that DEC eventually will back away from the stricter standards.

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