New York State Attorney General urges Homeland Security to withdraw Hudson anchorage proposal


The office of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has written a letter to Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, urging the Coast Guard to withdraw the proposal for 43 new anchorages on the Hudson River.

The letter, which comes from the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, gives three reasons why the proposal should be withdrawn:

“No one has demonstrated a manifest need for so many new anchorage sites along the river; no one has demonstrated a need for long-term anchorage at any of those specific locations; and we have seen no recommendation supporting these designations from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as required by statute.”

The letter cites several examples of the Hudson River’s aesthetic, environmental, historic, recreational and commercial significance.  It observes, for example, that “the federal government has designated the Hudson River National Historic Landmark District, the southern half of which is located along a stretch of the river where the contemplated Kingston Flats, Port Ewen and Big Rock Point berths would be located.”

Given that thousands of comments were filed with the Coast Guard concerning the ways in which the new anchorages and increased commercial traffic would harm New Yorkers and others, the Attorney General’s letter focuses on how the proposal has failed to fulfill the legal requirements for new anchorages.

Specifically, explains Srolovic, federal regulations grant the authority to establish anchorage berths to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and for the Hudson River that authority has been delegated to the Commander of the First Coast Guard District.

According to the statute (33 U.S.C. § 471), (1) it must be “manifest… that the maritime or commercial interests of the United States require such anchorage grounds for safe navigation,” and (2) “the establishment of such anchorage grounds shall have been recommended by the [U.S. Army Corps] Chief of Engineers.”

According to Srolovic, neither of these two conditions have been met.

The Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey — the organization that requested the anchorages — claimed that the anchorages were necessary in order to accommodate the “projected growth” in shipping along the river, due at least in part to the lifting of the ban on export of crude oil.

But as Srolovic points out, “no data supporting such projected growth, either in crude oil or any other type of shipment, has been provided.” In fact, the letter goes on to say, “there is at present no basis to anticipate any material growth in oil shipments beyond the 2014 level.”

As for the fact that 42 of the 43 anchorages would be “long term,” Srolovic indicates that his office has learned that this means barges could anchor for up to 30 days. “We are concerned,” he writes, “that such long-term anchorage would essentially allow barges to serve as oil storage facilities on the river.”

Rather than contributing to navigational safety — as the proponents of the proposal claim — such long-term anchorages “would create significant security and hazard risks.”

Finally, writes Srolovic, contrary to the statutory requirement, “it does not appear that the Army Corps Chief of Engineers has recommended these anchorage berths.”

Based on these factors, then, the Attorney General’s office urges the Secretary of Homeland Security “to instruct the Coast Guard to withdraw this proposal in light of the lack of ‘manifest’ need for any new berths.”

The full letter can be found here.

(Photo: Riverkeeper)

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