Daily Freeman: The U.S. Coast Guard has once again put on hold its controversial plan to allow barges to drop anchor up and down the Hudson River between New York City and Albany.
The decision to temporarily halt an administrative change that would have opened up the river north of the Mario Cuomo Bridge, which connects Westchester and Rockland counties, follows an outcry among elected officials and community leaders over the planned change.
“We won this initial victory because our community stood up and fought together,” said U.S. Rep Pat Ryan in a press release announcing the Coast Guard’s decision.
“But unfortunately, we know this success is temporary. 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,” added Ryan, D-Gardiner.
Local officials and environmental groups have been fighting Coast Guard plans to create anchorage grounds for large vessels on the Hudson River between Kingston and Yonkers since the plan was first announced in 2010.
The shipping industry has said the anchorage sites are needed to create safe places for ships to stop and crews to rest.
In 2017, the Coast Guard issued a statement indicating it had “suspended future rulemaking decisions and directed a formal risk identification and evaluation of the Hudson River, known as a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) … a disciplined approach to identify major waterway safety hazards, estimate risk levels, evaluate potential mitigation measures and set the stage for implementation of selected measures to reduce risk.”
In 2020, Congress passed the Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act, which included a suspension on the establishment of new anchorage grounds between Yonkers and Kingston.
But in July, the Coast Guard redefined the boundaries of the Port of New York to encompass only that portion of the waterway between the Statue of Liberty and the Mario Cuomo Bridge, which in essence opened up the entire river between the bridge and Troy to barge parking. Previously, the Port of New York was defined as stretching to Troy, which meant the entire Hudson River to Troy fell under the auspices of the Port of New York, which has the authority to regulate where barges can anchor.
That change sparked another round of controversy and led Ryan to deliver a Nov. 1 speech on the House floor opposing the plan on the House floor and calling on Hudson Valley families to join the fight against the effort.
“Today’s news shows that we have the power to protect our communities if we stand up with one voice to protect our Hudson River,” Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger said in the release announcing the Coast Guard pause. “The Coast Guard has done the right thing by pausing their planned policy to park dangerous barges in the Hudson River, but we must continue to support Congressman Ryan and our other federal representatives to ensure this disastrous policy is never enacted.”
State Sen, Ron Rolison, R-Poughkeepsie, said in the release, “As I have said from the beginning, the current anchorage grounds along the Hudson are more than sufficient for future marine traffic volume. By dramatically expanding the number of areas barges and other large commercial vessels can anchor, the Coast Guard is acting outside the law and turning our river towns into its parking lot,” he said.