Coast Guard, amid criticism, suspends new Hudson River anchorage rule, for now

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Poughkeepsie Journal:

The U.S. Coast Guard has, at least for now, shelved a plan that critics say would open the door to barges anchoring just about anywhere in the Hudson River from south of the Tappan Zee to the busy ports of Albany and Coeymans.

“The Coast Guard is aware of the public’s concerns regarding anchoring on the Hudson River,” a Nov. 9 Marine Safety Bulletin stated. The memo pledged “extensive public outreach opportunities to explore potential regulatory updates and limited access areas on the Hudson River.”

The Coast Guard hasn’t yet set up a way for the public to comment.

How to weigh in

But U.S. Rep. Pat Ryan launched a form, at patryan.house.gov/hudson-river-barge, to allow people to comment on the barge plan. He plans to forward responses to the Coast Guard.

The impacted stretch of the fragile estuary houses endangered species and supplies water for seven mid-Hudson municipalities home to more than 100,000 people.

“Now is the time for all of us to double down on our commitment to stop big corporations from turning our Hudson River into a parking lot for dangerous barges,” Ryan said in a statement.

Already fought off once

Local communities rallied against a plan launched in 2016 to establish 10 new fixed anchorage sites from Yonkers to Kingston.

The Coast Guard tabled the plan in 2019 after state agencies demanded reviews and 10,000 negative public comments were filed.

That was followed by a clause in the National Defense Authorization Act in 2021 that blocked any new anchorages in that stretch of river.

New plan, with a twist

In July, the Coast Guard revived the plan to expand Hudson anchorage options.

But this time the plan came with a twist.

In an unexpected Marine Safety Information Bulletin, the Coast Guard asserted that anchorage limitations don’t apply to the Hudson Valley because it’s out of the Port of New York and New Jersey’s jurisdiction.

The Coast Guard had gone back to re-examine the 1921 compact that set up the port and determined the original boundaries end 25 miles from the Statue of Liberty, or just south of where the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is now located.

‘Big deal’ consequences

Westchester County Executive George Latimer lauded the decision to halt anchorage expansions.

“Our community values the Hudson River as a cherished resource,” Latimer said, “and this decision is a testament to the power of collective advocacy.”

Ryan, a Democrat who represents New York’s 18th Congressional District, warned the success at stopping more anchorages is likely temporary. While the Coast Guard memo adds steps to the review process, it doesn’t change the ultimate goal of expanding access to anchorages for industry.

John Lipscomb, boat captain and vice president of advocacy for Riverkeeper, gives a tour of the Kingston area on the Hudson River Oct. 25, 2023, which would be affected by the Coast Guard's decision to redefine the restricted "Port of New York" region for the placement of anchorages for barges in the Hudson. This plan was fought and legislated against earlier.

The consequences of expanded anchorages “are a very big deal,” said John Lipscomb, boat captain and vice president of advocacy for Riverkeeper, the environmental organization that advocates for the Hudson.

Nancy Cutler writes about People & Policy for lohud.com and the USA Today Network New York. Email her at ncutler@lohud.com; follow her on Twitter (X), Instagram and Threads at @nancyrockland.

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