The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering several options for coastal storm protections in our region, and some of these options would have catastrophic consequences for the Hudson and New York Harbor. Specifically, storm surge barriers – giant ocean gates – would choke off tidal flow and the migration of fish – damaging the life of the Hudson River Estuary forever.
Scenic Hudson has a website page with links to the key documents and where to send your comments. There’s also a page with some of the comments that have been submitted by public officials, journalists and members of the public, as well a list of government resolutions.
Scenic Hudson: To further protect the Hudson River and lands surrounding it, Scenic Hudson commissioned the first-ever Hudson River Oil Spill Risk Assessment. It provides quantitative and qualitative information on the likelihood of oil spills occurring on the river, and gauges their potential economic, community and environmental impacts. The assessment also takes a comprehensive look at current spill-prevention measures and response preparedness, and offers strategies to improve them.
The Hudson River Oil Spill Risk Assessment provides both quantitative and qualitative information on spill threats that can be used for a variety of purposes, including, but not limited to:
- assessing the efficacy of existing spill prevention measures
- developing or evaluating the potential for new spill prevention measures
- assessing the current state of spill response preparedness
- developing or evaluating the potential for new spill response preparedness measures
- assessing current spill contingency planning
- developing new spill contingency planning measures
Many factors influence the harm an oil spill can cause to resources vital to the region’s public and environmental health. They include the trajectory of spilled oil, its chemical and physical properties, and when and where a spill occurs. To provide a realistic overview of possible outcomes, the assessment details 77 hypothetical spill scenarios in nine locations along the Hudson. Read more.
(Photo: The team that created the Hudson River Oil Spill Risk Assessment was led by Dr. Dagmar Schmidt Etkin (third from left) of Environmental Research Consulting in Cortlandt Manor, and included Dr. Deborah French McCay and Jill Rowe of RPS Ocean Science, John Joeckel of SEAConsult and Dr. Andrew Wolford of Risknology, Inc.)
Army Corps of Engineers fast-tracks proposal for floodwall barriers to protect NY Harbor, endangering life of Hudson River
Riverkeeper: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering six different plans for massive offshore barriers and/or land-based floodwalls intended to “manage the risk of coastal storm damage” to New York Harbor and the Hudson Valley. Several of these alternatives could threaten the very existence of the Hudson as a living river.
If you live anywhere near the shorelines of New York City, New York Harbor or the Hudson up to Troy, your community will be forever affected by this decision.
Anyone who cares about the life in the Hudson River needs to become informed and involved, now.
Please attend one of these meetings, just announced:
• Monday, July 9, 3-5 p.m., NYC: Borough of Manhattan Community Center in Tribeca, enter at 199 Chambers St, New York, NY 10007, between Greenwich St. and the West Side Highway. The session is in the Conference Room-Richard Harris Terrace, on the main floor.
• Monday, July 9, 6-8 p.m., NYC: (duplicate session) at the Borough of Manhattan Community Center in Tribeca, enter at 199 Chambers St., Manhattan, between Greenwich St. and the West Side Highway. The session is in the Conference Room-Richard Harris Terrace, on the main floor.
• Tuesday, July 10, 3-5 p.m., Newark: Rutgers University-Newark Campus, Paul Robeson Campus Center, 2nd floor, Essex Room. Entrance is at 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Newark, N.J.
• Tuesday, July 10, 6-8 p.m., Newark: (duplicate session) at Rutgers University-Newark Campus, Paul Robeson Campus Center, 2nd floor, Essex Room. Entrance is at 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Newark, N.J.
• Wednesday, July 11, 6-8 p.m., Poughkeepsie: Hudson Valley Community Center (Auditorium room), 110 Grand Avenue, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
This process is being fast-tracked, and it’s an outrage. The Army Corps gave only 12 days’ notice for meetings on an issue that will take many years to resolve and could change the river forever.
The six alternatives are under consideration as part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries (NYNJHAT) Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study, affecting more than 2,150 square miles. We all know that sea level rise and more frequent, intense storms require action and planning. But there is a difference between creating more protective, resilient shorelines over time, and installing massive, in-water barriers that threaten to change the ecosystem forever. Offshore barriers will choke off tidal flow and fish migration – the very life of our river.
Riverkeeper is working on an information piece to tell you what you need to know. Please mark your calendars and stay tuned. Learn more.
HVNN.com: Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) and Eliot Engel (NY-16) have requested that the Coast Guard commit to conducting early public outreach and release an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to proposing any new anchorage proposals.
They also requested that the Guard permanently maintain a Harbor Safety Committee for the Hudson River north of the George Washington Bridge.
In 2017, the Coast Guard rescinded its initial proposal to establish new anchorage sites along the river and instead opted to conduct a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA). Although the initial proposal is dead, no legal barrier prohibits future attempts to propose the establishment of new anchorage sites in the river.
“The Hudson Valley killed the first anchorage proposal together – ten thousand citizens, committed local groups, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle – but this thing could come back – and if it does, we want to be ready,” said Rep. Maloney. “We’re just asking the Coast Guard to do things in a more transparent way this time around – clearly this means a lot to us, and they need to take that into account before they propose adding even a single new anchorage site.” Read more.
Times Union: Scuba divers and underwater cutting equipment were used Wednesday to remove a sunken barge from the bottom of the Hudson River at the Port of Coeymans.
The barge had been there since sinking in February while tied up at the port, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier. The barge could not be refloated, and was too heavy to lift, so it had to be cut up underwater and lifted out in sections, he said.
At the time of the sinking, the barge was carrying construction and demolition debris, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
That waste was recovered from the river before efforts were made to remove the barge, according to DEC. The agency added that “no adverse environmental impacts are expected from the salvage operation.” Read more.
Scenic Hudson cheers company plan to scale back crude oil shipping through Hudson River, rail system
Daily Freeman: Environmental advocacy group Scenic Hudson is cheering a decision by an oil transportation company to scale back its crude oil shipping plans on the Hudson River and rail system.
Massachusetts-based Global Partners said earlier this week it would scale back a permit that allows it to increase the amount of tar sands crude oil from 450 million gallons to 2.2 billion gallons annually.
The move was announced earlier this week based on information provided from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to opponents, but a public document was not immediately available Thursday.
“We need to await Global’s permit modification application to DEC to see the exact numbers, but what they stated was they would be significantly scaling back their currently allowed crude oil output and that they would be withdrawing their application to handle the heavy tar sands product at their Albany terminal,” said Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson’s environmental advocacy director. Read more.
WAMC: A company that handles crude oil shipped by tanker trains and Hudson River barges says it’s scaling back operations at the Port of Albany.
County Executive Dan McCoy got the official word Tuesday that Massachusetts-based Global Partners opted to withdraw its application to expand operations and build a crude oil heating facility at the port. McCoy held a press conference Wednesday morning in a parking lot near the playground at Ezra Prentice Homes on South Pearl Street in Albany. “And it’s been almost four years to the day that I stood here and I signed a moratorium against Global. And the thing about when I signed that moratorium, everyone said to me ‘what’s a little county like Albany County gonna do against a giant like Global?’ Well, I stand here today and I can tell ya, we did a lot, and you can make a difference if you stick to it and you see it through.”
Global sued the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2013 for not issuing the permit, which was opposed by environmental groups and Ezra Prentice residents, who say they live in constant fear of oil spills, odors and the possibility their lives could be disrupted if there was a derailment of nearby freight trains. “We want people that live here to enjoy the quality of life and to be safe. And again, you know when you fight Goliath vs. David, you can win with the right team behind you. And I want to again thank the team and the residents for everything that they did.” Read more.
Putnam Daily Voice: Students in Pace University’s Environmental Policy Clinic along with their adviser, John Cronin, spent Friday, April 20 in Washington, D.C., advocating for issues related to the Hudson River.
Cronin is the senior fellow for Environmental Affairs at Pace. Cronin said a controversial proposal for oil barge anchorages on the Hudson River was the subject of their visit with the region’s congressional delegation.
“Our students conveyed the need for Coast Guard procedures that assure both river protection and river safety,” said Cronin, who is the Clinic instructor.
“We hope that representatives of the tug and barge industry, who have also been active in Washington, agree with the Clinic that these issues need not be at odds,” Cronin told Daily Voice. Read more.
Amtrak has submitted a proposal to New York State to install fencing and gates at several locations along the Hudson River in Rhinecliff, Tivoli, Germantown, Stockport and Stuyvesant. The purpose of the fences and gates is to keep people safe, but these barriers will block people from enjoying access points to the the Hudson that they have enjoyed access for years.
Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper have encouraged their members to submit comments on the proposal. The public comment period has been extended to Tuesday, May 1.
Here’s a page with more information and maps of the proposed fences and gates.
Hudson Independent: The Coast Guard has shelved its proposal to add 43 barge anchorage locations on the Hudson River, but environmental organizations are keeping a watchful eye on how the plan might be resurrected in the future.
The controversial concept, pursued by the shipping industry and initially proposed two years ago, drew opposition from municipalities and much of the public, with environmental groups leading the resistance. A major concern was that with the added anchorage sites, hazardous cargoes such as oil could leak into the Hudson River from the barges.
Pressed by the opposition, the Coast Guard suspended the plan last year and held two workshops this past November, one in Albany and the other in Poughkeepsie, to hear from both the maritime interests and those against the proposal.
Last month, the Coast Guard released an account of the issues dealt with at the workshops: the Hudson River Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) Report. The release stated, “The PAWSA workshops were held in order to provide stakeholders an opportunity to assist the Coast Guard in understanding navigation safety and environmental concerns on the Hudson River.” It called the report, “a starting point for continuing dialogue with the Hudson River stakeholder community.” The anchorage issue was placed in abeyance, at least for the present. Read more.
Highlands Current: The U.S. Coast Guard’s proposal to create 10 anchorage sites in the Hudson River, including one between Beacon and Newburgh, is dead — for now.
A newly completed safety assessment by the Coast Guard does not recommend adding anchorage grounds to the two available at Yonkers and Hyde Park. But it also did not rule out more anchorage sites being proposed in the future.
The initial plan, which came in January 2016 at the request of the Tug & Barge Committee of the Port of New York and New Jersey, would have created space for up to 43 barges to anchor in the river between Yonkers and Kingston.
The Tug & Barge Committee said that the anchorages were needed to allow crews to rest on trips between the New York Harbor and Albany. Opponents argued the distance is too short to require such a large number of anchorages; that the anchorages would harm marine life and the quality of life for riverfront communities; and that the proposal would lead to oil-laden tankers parking in the river for weeks at a time while waiting for the price of oil to reach a favorable amount in the Port of Albany. Read more.
The Examiner: Regional officials declared victory for the Hudson Valley after the United States Coast Guard announced last week it wasn’t setting sail on a controversial plan to create 43 new barge anchorages in 10 sites along the Hudson River, from Yonkers to Kingston.
Two of the 10 sites that were being considered by the Coast Guard were located within the borders of the Town of Cortlandt: approximately 127 acres in the Montrose region that would accommodate as many as three vessels, and approximately 98 acres between Tomkins Cove in Rockland County and Verplanck that would also handle up to three vessels. The Coast Guard was proposing to use more than 2,000 acres of the Hudson for barges. Read more.
Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial: Sure, it is highly encouraging the Coast Guard is suspending the outrageous and dangerous notion of allowing a slew of new commercial shipping anchorages along the Hudson River.
The Coast Guard is, at least for now, rejecting the proposal for 10 such areas – in places stretching from Yonkers to Kingston, where commercial ships, mostly oil tankers, could drop anchor.
But this potentially menacing matter isn’t entirely settled. The Coast Guard’s “final Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment” leads open the possibility of such anchorages in the future, and that is clearly unacceptable. Read more.
lohud.com: U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney declared the Hudson River anchorage proposal dead at a waterfront news conference Monday afternoon.
He’s planning to keep it that way.
The Cold Spring Democrat, with constituents on both sides of the river, said he put language in a $1.2 trillion spending package being considered by Congress that would cut the legs off any anchorage plan for the next year
“That is language we’re going to try and include in this spending bill as a sort of belt and suspenders approach to make sure we’re putting one more nail in the coffin of this bad idea,” Maloney said.
He was flanked by local officials including Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and his colleague in Congress, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx. Read more.
HVNN.com: After the Coast Guard released a final Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) report which did not recommend the installation of new anchorages on the Hudson River, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), other elected officials, and local stakeholders vowed to oppose any potential future anchorage proposals and to hold the Coast Guard to the results of its own PAWSA report.
The PAWSA was initiated by the Coast Guard after Rep. Maloney led local groups to kill an initial proposal made in 2016. The PAWSA process provided an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to hold comprehensive discussions on safety risks in the Hudson River, but its results are not legally binding.
“This is another huge win and one more nail in the coffin for this unnecessary and dangerous proposal. We expect the Coast Guard to keep fidelity to the PAWSA process that they initiated, and if they don’t, they’ll have us to answer to,” said Rep. Maloney. “We won’t take our eyes of the ball when it comes to the anchorages, and we’ll keep working to make sure the proposal stays dead.” Read more.
Today the U.S. Coast Guard issued its report on the Hudson River Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) workshops held in November 2017. The gist is that the proposal to establish many new anchorages has been suspended, at least for now. Here are some of the news articles that came out today about the report.
Daily News: KINGSTON, N.Y. (AP) — A proposal to allow up to 43 crude oil barges to anchor in the Hudson River south of Albany has been scuttled after the U.S. Coast Guard issued a 77-page report on the issue. Read more.
Kingston Daily Freeman: The Coast Guard has not yet made any decisions regarding establishing anchorages or using other waterways-management tools to manage navigation risk on the Hudson River ,” the report states. “The Coast Guard will use this … report, together with other information, to determine whether, and to what … Read more.
Lohud: The Coast Guard has scuttled a plan to allow new commercial shipping anchorages along the Hudson River — but environmental advocates say the fight is not over.… Read more.
MidHudsonNews.com: ALBANY – The US Coast Guard, Tuesday, issued its report on the Hudson River Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment and determined that allowing additional commercial anchorages on the Hudson River between Yonkers and Kingston was not an agreed upon recommendation to come from two … Read more.
NRDC: The United States Coast Guard issued its Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) Report for the Hudson River yesterday. Notably, it did not include a plan to add additional anchorages, places for ships to anchor, along any part of the Hudson River, making this the latest victory in our campaign to protect the river from further industrialization. Read more.
Workboat: The Coast Guard has deferred any decision on creating new barge anchorages on New York’s Hudson River, after months of study and intense political pressure from opponents of the proposal.
A new Hudson River Safety, Navigation and Operations Committee is already one outcome from a pair of big stakeholder meetings the Coast Guard convened at Albany and Poughkeepsie in November 2017.
As for new anchorages, that thorny subject is being put off, for the time being. The Coast Guard had sought to resolve conflicts using the Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) process, a workshop and dialogue framework that has been used on 58 other waterway systems since the late 1990s. Read more.
Rivertowns Patch: It seems that for the time being there will be no additional commercial anchorage sites on the Hudson River between Yonkers and Kingston. The U.S. Coast Guard Tuesday issued its report on the Hudson River Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment which determined that allowing the new anchorage sites was not agreed upon. Read more. xx
westfaironline: A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Coast Guard does not include a recommendation that additional anchorages be added to the Hudson River, but it does say regulations on where barges can anchor need clarification. Read more.
US Coast Guard Press Release: The Coast Guard made public the Hudson River Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) report today from the workshops held in Poughkeepsie and Albany in November last year.
The PAWSA workshops were held in order to provide stakeholders an opportunity to assist the Coast Guard in understanding navigation safety and environmental concerns on the Hudson River. This report is a starting point for continuing dialogue with the Hudson River stakeholder community.
The most significant PAWSA workshops recommendations were:
- To create a Hudson River Safety Committee (HRSC);
- To increase recreational boating safety information; and
- To clarify and remove ambiguity from current regulations.
The HRSC will provide a forum for relevant stakeholders to address concerns identified by the PAWSA with non-regulatory action, collaboration, and coordination. Although still in development, the HRSC has already held three meetings with successful outcomes and is bringing diverse stakeholders together to discuss safety and environmental interests pertinent to Hudson River waterway users and communities.
The Coast Guard plans to continue boating safety education efforts, to include coordination with State and local agencies. At the request of PAWSA participants, the Coast Guard plans to increase patrol presence on the Hudson River.
Through the PAWSA, the Coast Guard identified ambiguity in existing Hudson River anchorage regulations. The Coast Guard is currently reviewing options to address this issue.
“We will take full advantage of the stakeholder partnerships gained through the two PAWSA workshops, and work with the HRSC to discuss how to best reduce risk, and improve the safety and security of the Hudson River,” said Rear Admiral Steven Poulin, First Coast Guard District Commander.
The full report under “Hudson River, New York” can be found here: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=pawsaFinalReports. This press release is here.
(Here’s a key passage from the report’s conclusion regarding the anchorages:
“Besides our continuing effort to support the stand-up of the HRSC the Coast Guard has not yet made any decisions regarding establishing anchorages or using other waterways management tools to manage navigation risk on the Hudson River. The Coast Guard will use this PAWSA report, together with other information, to determine whether, and to what extent, regulatory actions are needed.
“During the PAWSA workshops we acknowledged that the existing anchorage regulations are unclear, and we are considering how those regulations could be made more readily understood. We have no outcome timelines at this time. Any other substantive rulemaking effort associated with the Hudson River will follow Coast Guard public notice and comment rulemaking procedures to allow for public participation in the process.”)
Luhud.com: One of the Tappan Zee Constructors’ runaway barges that drifted away during Friday’s storm demolished “the life blood” of the Irvington Boat and Beach Club.
“It must’ve got away because of the tides and the winds,” the club’s Vice Commodore Marcus Witte said. “It must’ve went up the (Hudson) River during high tide and came back down during low tide and slam dunked into our pier.”
The pier connected to a floating dock in the Hudson River and is the “key” attraction for the locally run, locally built private boat club that dates back to the 1950s, Witte said.
“It’s a destination,” Witte said about the pier and dock, “with views of Manhattan, the Tappan Zee Bridge, the Palisades. It’s a great attraction for our members … Not having it is a big loss.” Read more.
Rivertowns Daily Voice: The Coast Guard and partner agencies have beached six barges that broke away from their moored location on the Hudson River.
The construction barges were drifting south of the Tappan Zee Bridge on Friday afternoon.
The barges were beached in various locations between Dobbs Ferry and Yonkers. Another two barges are aground in the area of Palisades Park, New Jersey. The captain of the Port has instructed that a tug remain on scene with each barge until conditions stabilize, the Coast Guard said on Saturday. Read more.
Poughkeepsie Journal: An estimated 100,000 people in the Hudson Valley rely on the Hudson for their drinking water. The Hudson continues to be in the spotlight for issues including the controversy over proposed barge anchorages and the PCBs cleanup north of Albany.
Riverkeeper, an environmental group, commissioned the Center for Watershed Protection to produce the report. The recommendations are based on Riverkeeper’s new “Drinking Source Water Protection Scorecard.”
Over the past year, Riverkeeper worked with elected officials from the seven towns and cities to form a collective. The municipalities include the city and town of Poughkeepsie; the village and town of Rhinebeck, the towns of Esopus, Hyde Park and Lloyd and the Dutchess County Water & Wastewater Authority.
The report concluded the towns and cities need to focus on the cleanup of the water source, in this case, the Hudson River, as opposed to first tackling the water treatment plants; the city of Poughkeepsie recently finished $18 million in upgrades to the Poughkeepsie Water Treatment Plant, that it shares with the town of Poughkeepsie. Read more.
CNN Money: The resurgence of the oil industry can be traced back to what happened in Congress one day in December 2015.
That’s when lawmakers ended the 40-year ban on U.S. oil exports. Crude pumped in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota could suddenly be shipped overseas.
At the time, a glut of supply was wreaking havoc on the energy industry. Crude eventually crashed to $26 a barrel.
But that glut is disappearing, thanks in part to booming oil exports from the United States. Crude that was once trapped inside the country is now going to Europe, Latin America and even China.
The United States exported a record 1.7 million barrels of oil per day in October 2017, according to the most recent stats from the Energy Information Administration. That’s four times as much as in 2015, when federal law prohibited shipping oil to most places except Canada. Read more.
The Hudson Independent: Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with other organizations, municipalities and thousands of residents along its shores, are of single mind when it comes to the Hudson River. They do not want to see a significant increase in barges or other oil-carrying vessels that could pose “potential dangers” on the river, as they have been characterized.
What will transpire on the Hudson could be disclosed early this year when the U.S. Coast Guard releases a report on two workshops held this past November that brought together, “users, stakeholders, and agencies, to determine the safety of the waterway.”
The public concern was sparked originally from a 2016 Coast Guard proposal to set up or enlarge as many as 10 commercial shipping ports, starting in Yonkers and in other locations as far north as Kingston off the Rhinebeck shoreline, some 70 miles upstream. Forty three anchorages were proposed, providing ports for barges as large as 600 feet in length. Read more.
MarineLink: In June 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) opened a public comment period regarding new anchorage zones in the Hudson River; usually a rather low-key set of issues. This proved different. Opponents jumped on the proposal – initially suggested by three maritime organizations – as a backdoor way to facilitate a huge expansion in crude oil shipments on the Hudson.
Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, has an editorial on the website of the Heartland Institute expressing opposition to recent “legislation that could limit or even bar oil tankers traversing the Hudson River from storing petroleum at anchorages along the river.”
Cohen’s piece quotes Jordan McGillis, a policy analyst with the Institute for Energy Research, who says the new tanker rule is just the latest in a series of anti-energy measures Cuomo has supported.
“New York’s new tanker law is just the latest in a litany of anti-energy measures enacted under the governorship of Andrew Cuomo,” said McGillis. “When combined with the fact Cuomo has prevented the building of pipelines—the safest means we have to transport oil and natural gas—this tanker measure seems all the more nonsensical.
“Cuomo’s hostility to oil and natural gas hampers business and dims the economic prospects of his state, often—as in the case of the Clean Energy Standard—for little or no environmental benefit,” McGillis said.
Cohen also notes Craig Rucker, executive director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), who says laws restricting the development, transport, and use of fossil fuels have an adverse effect on the poor and are unsustainable.
The Heartland Institute describes itself as “one of the world’s leading free-market think tanks,” and the National Center for Public Policy Research “is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems.” Read Cohen’s editorial here.
Environmentalists urge DEC to establish strong regulations for “Tanker Avoidance Zones” to protect Hudson from oil barges
Thirty-five local groups have signed on to a letter to Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, urging him to establish strong regulations for “Tanker Avoidance Zones” to protect the Hudson River from oil barges.
The letter was drafted by Scenic Hudson, Food & Water Watch, Riverkeeper, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is signed by individuals representing environmental organizations, recreational clubs, faith-based groups, and political associations.
“It remains a top priority of our organizations to prevent the development of new anchorage grounds in the Hudson River from being sited at locations where they pose a clear and direct threat to the environment, quality of life, and regional economic development goals of the Hudson Valley,” states the letter. “We are eager to support a rulemaking process that results in regulations that will accomplish this.”
The complete letter reads as follows:
Dear Commissioner Seggos,
We are writing you as organizations to thank you for your agency’s leadership in protecting the Hudson River. Recently, Governor Cuomo signed A.6825a/ S.5197b into law and positioned New York State to continue to fulfill its responsibility to the river and its communities from the many potential dangers presented by oil-carrying vessels on the Hudson River. We applaud this development and congratulate the Governor for adding this law to his list of environmental achievements. Today, we write to respectfully request that you immediately advance a rulemaking process to establish Tanker Avoidance Zones for petroleum-bearing vessels, consistent with the considerations in the new law.
It remains a top priority of our organizations to prevent the development of new anchorage grounds in the Hudson River from being sited at locations where they pose a clear and direct threat to the environment, quality of life, and regional economic development goals of the Hudson Valley. We are eager to support a rulemaking process that results in regulations that will accomplish this. Together with the state’s existing authority in the Navigation Law, the new law gives the Department of Environmental Conservation the ability to frame future attempts to designate anchorage grounds in this respect.
The federal government and New York State share concurrent jurisdiction over the Hudson River. As long as action by the state is not inconsistent with existing federal regulation and does not unreasonably burden interstate commerce, New York has significant authority to regulate navigable waters like the Hudson when the state’s interest warrants special precautionary measures. In this case, the state’s interest in protecting the invaluable natural resources of the Hudson and the communities that line its shores is more than sufficient to justify establishment of Tanker Avoidance Zones.
As you are aware, the USCG recently conducted two Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) workshops for the stretch of the Hudson River between the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Port of Albany. We appreciate your agency’s participation in this collaborative effort; however, we remain concerned that a recommendation to establish new anchorages could be part of the USCG’s PAWSA report, which could be issued as soon as January 2018. With this uncertainty looming, it is even more important that your agency act quickly and issue the strongest regulations possible under the law to protect the Hudson River.
During your tenure as one of Governor Cuomo’s top environmental officials, New York State has secured important victories that have been essential to public health, the environment and the economy of the state. The administration’s support for the Environmental Protection Fund, the ban on hydraulic fracturing, increasing funding for the state’s Oil Spill Response Fund, and issuance of water quality permit decisions relating to energy development and transport have been among these many accomplishments. We hope that you will agree that protecting the Hudson River from petroleum-bearing vessels through implementing the strongest possible regulations allowed under the law will be among these noteworthy accomplishments and consistent with the Governor’s track record.
(View a pdf of the letter, with its list of signatories, here.)
Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial: When defenders of the Hudson River first heard the U.S. Coast Guard was considering designating as many as 10 commercial shipping anchorages on the river, they were rightly appalled and aghast – but they also were taken by surprise.
It was hard to imagine the government would sanction the odious notion of turning parts of the river into “a barge parking lot,” where the potential for more oil spills, contamination of municipal water sources, negative impacts on tourism and interference with recreational boating are all definite threats.
The federal agency had been considering an industry-backed scheme to designate these anchorages, including places in Kingston, Milton, Newburgh and Port Ewen.
Fortunately, the public, led by the area’s environmental groups, rallied. They stood up against the plan. They signed petitions.
In fact, they flooded the U.S. Coast Guard with more than 10,000 comments (the most it has ever has received regarding a proposal) and resoundingly rejected the suggestion. The reaction was so rich and intense that the Coast Guard opted to suspend the process and pull back to do a more comprehensive safety assessment of the river. Officially, this is called the U.S. Coast Guard’s Hudson River Ports and Waterway Safety Assessment, or PAWSA.
The state came through as well, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signing legislation creating “tanker avoided zones” aimed at preventing anchorages from being located where they would pose a direct threat to the environment or would run counter to the economic development goals of neighboring communities.
Yet these matters are far from settled. The Coast Guard has not ruled out proposing new anchorages, which is why it is vital for environmental groups and others to stay engaged and offer solutions. To that end, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater all recommend initiatives to better protect the Hudson River. They don’t just include limiting where barges and tankers can anchor, they also involve increasing captains’ and pilots’ access to tide, current and fog conditions. They also include pushing for more resources to ensure a quick response to oil spills and enhancing boater safety education.
While the shipping industry argues the anchorages are necessary to safely transport cargo, others see different motives.
On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, has been a vocal critic of the possible proliferation of anchorage designations. In a recent editorial board meeting with the Poughkeepsie Journal, the congressman stressed that the Coast Guard must not allow industry to have “permanent crude oil storage on the river.” Read more.
Hudson Valley News Network: On Monday, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Representative Eliot Engel (NY-16) and local stakeholders reaffirmed their commitment to stopping any Coast Guard proposals that include long-term anchorage sites for the Hudson River.
This followed a series of comprehensive workshops hosted by the Coast Guard that assessed safety on the Hudson River, including the potential need for new anchorage proposals. The group of officials also lauded the Coast Guard’s Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) for its inclusion of local concerns.
“I’m happy to talk about improving safety measures for barge operators on the river – if a barge is caught in a serious storm, it should absolutely be able to pull over to protect the crew and the river,” said Rep. Maloney. “But there is no way I’ll entertain the possibility of any long-term anchorage sites. They’re not necessary for anyone’s safety and they’re a huge risk to the river and our local communities.”
“From day one my colleagues and I have said this anchorage proposal was a bad idea,” said Congressman Eliot Engel. “The impact it could have, not just on the river but on the communities that line the river like Yonkers and Hastings, might be severe. As such, we have opposed the Coast Guard’s plan every step of the way and will continue to do so as the PAWSA process moves forward. So far we have been successful in delaying this bad idea, but we can’t let up. Congressman Maloney and I will continue to look for ways to help preserve and protect our shoreline communities at the federal level, and I am proud to have partners at the local level like Mayor Spano who are also fighting vigorously against this plan.” Read more.
WAMC: Two Democratic New York Congressmen and local stakeholders stood at the Yonkers waterfront Monday afternoon to talk about potential anchorage proposals for the Hudson River. Though they praised a U.S. Coast Guard study, the lawmakers and environmentalists also made it clear they are doubling down on opposition to any long-term anchorage sites in future proposals.
The directed study came after the Coast Guard suspended the rulemaking process for a proposal of up to 10 additional anchorage sites from Westchester to Ulster County. Two workshops took place in November — one in Poughkeepsie, one in Albany — as part of this study on safety along the river. The study is part of the Coast Guard’s PAWSA process, or Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment. Congressman Eliot Engel’s 16th House District includes Yonkers.
“The days when agencies and decisions can run roughshod over communities is over, and we’re not going to stand for it, certainly not those of us that represent Yonkers, Hastings or other communities up and down the water. So we’re going to continue to fight this. This is something that, whose time has not come, should not come and should never come,” Engel says. “And I will pledge to continue to oppose this, and we won’t stop till we win.” Read more.
westchester.news12: Activists gathered with federal and local politicians at the Yonkers waterfront Monday amid growing concerns that the Coast Guard could come up with a new plan to install additional anchorage sites on the Hudson River.
The Coast Guard had said that additional barges would allow for increased shipping of crude oil down the Hudson River from the Port of Albany, but it backed off after receiving more than 10,000 letters from local residents fearful of the possibility of oil spills and other accidents on the Hudson.
Activists and lawmakers worry that there is still a proposal out there lurking in the background.
“It serves notice on them that we are monitoring and watching them very carefully, and just the way we didn’t stand for their proposal before, if they put forward another egregious proposal, we will fight them again,” said Rep. Eliot Engel.
Officials say it’s not clear that new barges are in a new proposal from the Coast Guard. It is expected to be released in a few months. Watch the news report.
Kingston Daily Freeman: Shipping industry officials and environmental advocates alike are praising the U.S. Coast Guard’s process for updating rules for use of the Hudson River.
However, following two workshops to provide suggestions on the proposed rules, both sides remain far apart in their positions on whether 10 new anchorages for large commercial vessels should be established along the river from Yonkers to Kingston and Rhinebeck.
Edward Kelly, executive director of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey, said having 74 participants from 62 industry groups, environmental organizations, municipalities, governmental departments, and lawmakers’ offices has helped promote an understanding of the needs of all river users.
“I think it did bring out a lot of very good information about the current risk and physical status of the river, some of the mitigations that are out there, and it did give an opportunity to dispel a lot of misconceptions and lack of knowledge that we have been constantly battling against in this whole anchorage proposal,” he said.
Even so, he said, “We are still distressed that there has been no significant action taken to proceed to designate federal anchorages on the Hudson River. At the conclusion of the Albany PAWSA (Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment), Coast Guard District 1 said they have suspended the advanced notice of proposed rule making. We’re still trying to figure out what that means.”
The environmental groups Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson, in a joint press release, also lauded the Coast Guard for giving them an chance to discuss a wide range of alternatives to anchorages.
“We proposed alternatives that would enhance navigation and environmental safety without new anchorages,” Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said. “These include enhanced communication and access to real-time weather and navigation conditions, reduction of the hours maritime professionals work without rest, and more rapid deployment of spill response resources.” Read more.