Environmental groups are crying foul over federal legislation that benefits the shipping industry but which they say would weaken protections against invasive species entering the Great Lakes through ballast water discharges. On Thursday, May 18, the U.S. Senate commerce committee passed a Coast Guard reauthorization bill with provisions that would transfer authority over ballast water from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Coast Guard. The bill passed on a bipartisan voice vote, although several Democrats on the committee, including Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, withheld support over changes to ballast water regulation, saying that the bill as written “does not protect our waters from further incursions from non-native species.”
The shipping industry has advocated the transfer for several years, arguing for uniform nationwide discharge pollution rules that would end overlapping state and federal regulations on ballast water, which ships carry in their hulls to provide stability. Because the water can transfer exotic species, bacteria and viruses around the globe, it is regulated as a form of pollution.
The shipping industry argues the Coast Guard is a more appropriate authority to regulate ballast water because the service already enforces discharge permit violations and certifies onboard ballast water systems.
“The status quo, two federal vessel discharge regulations enforced by two different agencies, plus, at latest count, 25 state regimes, is unworkable,” the Lake Carriers Association said in a 2016 report. Environmental groups counter that provisions in the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, (VIDA), weaken protections against invasive species like the quagga and zebra mussels, which entered the Great Lakes in ballast water. Versions of VIDA have died in committee or been removed from must-pass bills before. The VIDA provisions strip the authority of the Clean Water Act over ballast water discharges and prohibit states like Michigan, which requires saltwater ships calling at Michigan ports to obtain a discharge permit from the state Department of Environmental Quality, from passing their own ballast water rules.
Michigan presently has EPA-delegated authority to enforce Clean Water Act rules under a special federal program. The state requires ships disinfect ballast water before entering state waters. Michigan’s general permit expires this year. The Senate bill as written would allow the EPA and states to consult with the Coast Guard, which would issue ballast water discharge permits, conduct enforcement and review proposals from states for more stringent future standards, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Coast Guard would have to decide by 2022 whether revising ballast water standards “will result in reducing the risk of introducing or establishing aquatic nuisance species,” according to the bill text, and any standards should be developed by “applying the best available technology that is economically achievable.”
The National Wildlife Federation says the VIDA provisions would “enshrine a regulatory scheme that places the economic burden associated with invasive species on the nation’s taxpayers rather than on the international shipping industry that is responsible for bringing those species to our nation’s waters.”
In 2015, the NWF and National Resources Defense Council won a federal appellate decision that forced the EPA to rewrite its general ballast water permit by 2018 to strengthen pollution controls. The NWF and NRDC say mid-ocean ballast water flushing and new onboard treatment systems are insufficient protections.
Oceangoing ships are currently required to exchange, or flush, ballast water at sea before entering the St. Lawrence Seaway. The practice, known as “swish and spit,” has largely been credited with stemming invasions, although in 2016 the EPA confirmed a new exotic species of zooplankton was present in Lake Erie. Committee chair Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, included the VIDA provisions in the Coast Guard bill prior to Thursday’s meeting, saying the changes would “ensure that our nation’s fishermen and vessel owners have one consistent and attainable standard for ballast water and vessel discharge.”
Thune said its time to get VIDA “across the finish line.”
“We’ve tried multiple times now.”
Peters and other Democrats objected to the VIDA provisions in the bill, asking to be recorded as “no” votes and expressing hope the language could be removed from an otherwise non-controversial must-pass bill on the full chamber floor.
“I’m disappointed (VIDA) was added to an otherwise non-controversial and bipartisan bill at the last minute and without consultation with all members of the committee,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, who called the bill a “step backwards in the fight against invasive species that could cause serious harm to state and local economies that rely on the Great Lakes.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, said “the Coast Guard’s mission is our nation’s maritime safety and security. I believe they should focus on that and leave water management requirements to the EPA, who have more of a scientific-based approach.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said ship owners have complained to him that some states have discharge standards that are “not achievable.”
“We could continue to work with EPA as a scientific advisor,” he said. Peters and Baldwin withheld support although the reauthorization bill, which funds the Coast Guard for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, included their amendment to authorize funding to begin initial design work on new a Great Lakes icebreaker, as well as a Peters amendment to create a Coast Guard Center of Expertise in the Great Lakes focused on studying the impacts of freshwater oil spills.
Peters entered a letter written by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on the record, which expresses opposition to the VIDA provisions.
“Michigan is taking action to address all potential pathways through which aquatic invasive species can enter our waters and currently has significant state resources dedicated annually to invasive species prevention, detection and management,” Snyder wrote.
“I urge you to continue to work to ensure the complementary benefits of regulatory certainty and environmental protection are met.”
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, ranking Democrat on the committee who supported the VIDA provisions in subcommittee, said “the question is, do we have a national standard or do we allow each state to have its own standard?”
“There are pluses and minuses on both sides of the issue, and we are going to attempt to work this out.”
ANN ARBOR — Andrew Dakich thought he was in some serious hot water. Now his second semester is on the house. Often the most visible and rowdy member of the Michigan basketball, Dakich was awarded a scholarship for the second semester of the ongoing 2016-17 season on Monday.
John Beilein and the staff had a little fun first, though. Two uniformed U-M security guard interrupted a team meeting to alert Dakich that he was to report immediately to the school compliance office.
“It’s come to our attention that your conduct on campus is tied to a number of ongoing investigations,” the security guard said. As seen in a video provided by U-M, some heavy awkwardness hung in the air. The security guard then finally said: “Upon there, you’ll sign the papers to be awarded a full men’s basketball scholarship for the 2017 winter term at the University of Michigan.”
Dakich has spent the last three-and-half years as a walk-on Wolverine, twice burning a potential redshirt season when called to action. This was the reward.
Beilein on his Monday night radio show called the surprise “a great moment.”
With one open scholarship, Beilein said he opted to hold that opening in case a first-semester transfer came available. That’s the way of the world in college basketball nowadays. According to the most up-to-date list compiled by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, there have been 57 Divison I players to leave their schools as midseason transfers. Dakich’s second-semester scholarship will be worth roughly $30,000. Dakich planned on redshirting two seasons ago, but a bevy of Michigan injuries called him to the floor. Then the walk-on point guard planned to walk-on last season. The goal was to store away one year of NCAA eligibility, pocketing the possibility of transferring after graduating to go play — actually play — as a scholarship player for a low-Division I or a Division II program. Instead, more U-M injuries landed him back on the floor.
Both times, while he and his family were responsible for shoveling out roughly $60,000 for out-of-state tuition at U-M, Dakich took the floor without hesitation. He burned those redshirts, appearing in 13 games in 2014-15 and 24 games 2015-16.
“He’s really done a great job for us over time,” Beilein said, adding that Dakich was “all-in to burn the redshirt.”
Instead, Dakich is now redshirting as a senior. He’s due to graduate with a degree from U-M’s School of Kinesiology this spring and will be able to move on, if he chooses, as a graduate transfer and be immediately eligible for the 2017-18 season.
“He’s been a really good scout team guy,” Dakich said. “He gives me great thoughts. He gives all our coaches great thoughts off the bench. He wants to be coach someday.”
He has the genes. Dakich’s father, ESPN commentator Dan Dakich, played for Indiana coach Bob Knight before spending 12 years as Knight’s assistant. He spent 1997-98 to 2006-07 as the head coach at Bowling Green, compiling a 159-144 record. He was also the interim head coach at Indiana for seven games in 2008, following Kelvin Sampson’s resignation.
Beilein said the younger Dakich has a future in the business.
“I think he sees the game really well,” Beilein said. “I think he sees it and he understands it. He’s watched the Big Ten. He’s watched a lot of good coaches work, including his father. So I think it’s a natural (fit) for him.”
Over 40 years ago, Beilein was a redshirt player at Wheeling College (now Wheeling Jesuit University). He, too, was awarded scholarship, one covering half of the school’s $3,000 tuition.
“I thought I just won the lottery,” Beilein said. “I canceled that Knights of Columbus student loan and said, man, I’m rich.”
It was Dakich — and his parents — feeling a bit richer on Monday.
“I know right where he is and how grateful the parents are,” Beilein said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
ANN ARBOR — Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is averaging a career-high 30.1 minutes per game. After two years as a stand-in for an injured Caris LeVert, he’s started the first 10 games of his junior season at Michigan. His time as a college basketball player has found some job security. But nothing is ever that simple. Abdur-Rahkman is also in the midst of the most inconsistent 10-game stretch of his time at U-M. He is 27 for 76 from the field. He’s shooting an inordinate amount of 3-pointers. His defense is wayward.
He is a microcosm of an enigmatic season.
“We’ve seen what that young man can do,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “But the consistency needs to be on offense and defense.”
That was a theme, of sorts, on Monday. Beilein, speaking to reporters to recap a weekend loss at No. 2 UCLA and preview a home date Tuesday against Central Arkansas (9 p.m., TV: BTN), spoke extensively about his team’s issues with erratic, unreliable play.
“We scored 50 points in one half,” Beilein said, referring to UCLA and an earlier win over Marquette. “And we scored 53 against Texas in one game.”
And, for good measure, the Wolverines allowed 50 points to Texas, 54 to SMU, and then gave up 102 to UCLA.
“So,” Beilein continued, “I think what’s really key for us going forward is, where is our consistency?”
Abdur-Rahkman is a case study in the matter. Start with the last two years, back when Abdur-Rahkman served as U-M’s starting two-guard in Big Ten games. As a freshman, he averaged 5.7 points on 43.2 percent shooting and averaged 2.2 3-point attempts per game. As a sophomore, he averaged 9.8 on 48.1 percent shooting and 2.5 3-point attempts. Now, through 10 games this season, Abdur-Rahkman is averaging 8.4 points on 35.5 percent shooting and 3.5 3-point attempts.
Too much shooting, not enough driving. The same player who Beilein has long-touted for providing “east-coast buckets” — tough, hard-charging, pure-scoring baskets — has resorted to midwest jumpers. They’re a prevalent trait around these parts.
“He’s got to know that taking the ball to the basket has got to be his strength,” Beilein said. “He can’t settle. And to be frank with you, a lot of our guys settle for a jump shot when they can take the ball to the basket.”
Abdur-Rahkman nods his head hearing all this. Much of the uptick in jump shooting stems from his understandable desire to be a better all-around player. He spent his offseason firing 3-pointers, trying to shake his old scouting report. Defenders knew, one on one, they were safe lagging off him. Dare him to shoot it.
Coming into 2016-17, Abdur-Rahkman was ready to show something new. Instead, he’s gone 9 for 35. Not only have the misses been a detriment to the offense, but Michigan has missed Abdur-Rahkman’s driving ability. The team’s best player at going to the basket hasn’t been going to the basket.
“My mindset was different coming in — shooting more 3s, trying to progress it that way, instead of progressing overall,” Abdur-Rahkman said Monday. “I think that kind of hurt me in a couple of games. But I think I’m starting to get back to the old me.”
That began against UCLA. A few times, Abdur-Rahkman burst past a defender and attacked the interior. He finished with 11 points, but was inefficient, going 4 of 11. It was, regardless, a clear step in the right direction. The improvements need to continue because Michigan doesn’t have any other options. This roster is built for a three-man rotation at the guard positions. The thought, early on, was that Xavier Simpson would be ready for 15-20 minutes per game, offering a breather for Derrick Walton Jr. at point guard, and, at other times, allowing Walton to slide over to the two, so Abdur-Rahkman can rest.
That hasn’t worked out. Simpson is only playing 8.7 minutes per game. The lack of options has caused Beilein to occasionally go big and shift Zak Irvin into the two-guard spot. This is all foreign to Abdur-Rahkman. As a freshman and sophomore, his emergence stemmed from LeVert’s injuries. He was tossed in and told to play, so he did what came natural: Scored the basketball. As a junior, Abdur-Rahkman knew since the previous spring that he was starter. He also, as Beilein pointed out Monday, knew he was alone.
“We want our guys to be able to play with the idea that somebody might catch them in a minute — that you’ve got to play for your job every day,” Beilein said. “Well, that hasn’t necessarily been a motivator for him because he looks behind him and there’s nobody there.”
Since that’s the case, it’s all on him. Abdur-Rahkman reiterated that he’s getting back to what paid the bills. He’s going back to the basket. If he finds consistency, maybe Abdur-Rahkman can, in a new way, represent Michigan’s bigger picture.
“This is a team I believe in and we’re going to keep working hard,” Beilein said. “But there are these times in games when we don’t play as well as we can play. We’ve got to find a way to correct it.”