Bipartisan Bill to Permanently Ban Hudson River Barge Anchorages Is Introduced in U.S. House

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The Daily Catch: Federal law may permanently ban barges from anchoring on most of the Hudson River, if bipartisan legislation introduced Thursday by Reps. Pat Ryan (D-18) and Marc Molinaro (R-19) can garner enough support.

“This legislation will stop big corporations from turning our Hudson River into a parking lot for dangerous barges once and for all,” said Ryan in a statement. “These dangerous barges threaten the health and safety of our kids.”

Hudson Valley politicians and local residents have expressed outrage and concern after the Coast Guard in July opened the river between the Tappan Zee Bridge and Albany to anchorage, following a redrawing of the boundaries of the Port of New York. These boundaries have been used to enforce the anchorage ban.

Especially concerned were representatives of the roughly 100,000 residents who live in communities that draw drinking water from the river—Rhinebeck, Poughkeepsie, Hyde Park, Lloyd, and Esopus. Officials from those municipalities, represented by Hudson 7, the advocacy group chaired by Rhinebeck Village Mayor Gary Bassett, said they feared the barges could spill hazardous cargo since they often transport loads of oil or asphalt (Read our coverage).

Following public expressions of anger, the Coast Guard reinstated the anchorage ban on Nov. 9 through a Marine Service Information Bulletin (MSIB), nullifying July’s MSIB that opened the river north of the Tappan Zee to barge anchorage. But officials feared the ban would only be temporary and that the Coast Guard might seem to listen to public concerns but would ultimately revert to the open anchorage.

The bipartisan Hudson River Protection Act would codify the current ban on barge anchorage regardless of the Coast Guard’s definition of the Port of New York. The bill would amend the 2020 Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act that previously banned barge anchorage along the Hudson by eliminating the legal language that gave the Coast Guard discretion to open up the river based on such boundary definitions.

If passed, the new bill would only allow barges to anchor at sites that were permitted in 2021, when the previous legislation went into effect. Therefore between the Tappan Zee Bridge and Troy, just north of Albany, barges would only be allowed to anchor at the federally designated anchorage point near Hyde Park. The bill will be marked up in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Ryan’s office said. It is not yet known if there is a Senate sponsor for a companion bill.

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