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.
Last summer, after reviewing more than 10,200 comments that were received from elected officials and residents during a lengthy comment period, Rear Adm. Steven Poulin, commander of the First Coast Guard District, announced the Coast Guard was suspending “future rulemaking decisions” and directing a formal risk identification and evaluation of the Hudson River, known as a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA).
The PAWSA process is designed to identify major waterway safety hazards, estimate risk levels, evaluate potential mitigation measures, and set the stage for implementation of selected measures to reduce risks.
Last week, the Coast Guard released a 77-page report, stating, “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.”
Three immediate pursuits were described in the report, which the Coast Guard called the “most significant PAWSA workshops recommendations.” Those were the creation of a Hudson River Safety Committee, (HRSC), which has already held several meetings, an increase in recreational boating safety information and actions “to clarify and remove ambiguity from current regulations,” regarding the anchorages, among other rules.
State Senator Terrence Murphy (R/Yorktown), who has opposed the project since it first surfaced, remarked “bon voyage and good riddance” to the Coast Guard seemingly abandoning ship on its plans.
“The Coast Guard’s proposal has finally capsized and sunk under the weight of its own absurdity,” Murphy said. “The possibility of having an additional 10 anchorages on the Hudson was a threat to the economic health of our shoreline communities and was an ecological and safety hazard waiting to happen.”
“A great deal of the success in ending this ill-advised idea is owed to the thousands of people who expressed their disapproval by signing my online petition and attending the Senate’s Hudson River Barge Hearings,” he continued. “The end result, a victory for everyone in the Hudson Valley, illustrates that positive results can be achieved when government listens to the concerns of the people it serves.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said the Coast Guard clearly heard the widespread opposition to the proposal.
“I applaud the move by the United States Coast Guard and look forward to Westchester residents continuing to enjoy all the scenic Hudson River has to offer. The Hudson River should not be a parking lot for large scale barges, which bring unnecessary risks of disaster to our communities,” he said. “This move would not have happened unless countless Westchester County residents did not make their voices heard. Once the rulemaking period began, residents from all corners of the County made clear that the Hudson River was not the place for an oil barge parking lot. This decision is also a win for local businesses along the river that utilize the breathtaking views the Hudson offers.”
Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay called the PAWSA result “a welcome next step toward resolving the very contentious proposal by the tug and barge industry for new anchorages on the Hudson. Whether or not a new anchorage proposal is ever put forward, it’s clear that any new regulations will involve public comment. We hope that the public will remain very much engaged in speaking up for the protection of the river as the process moves forward.”
There is currently only one anchorage ground for vessels along a 100-mile stretch in the Hudson River from New York City to Albany. The Coast Guard, which has noted the plan is only in an exploratory phase, has publicly stated the proposal was initiated by the Maritime Association of the Port of NY/NJ Tug and Barge Committee, the Hudson River Port Pilot’s Association, and the American Waterways Operators.