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Elected Officials Criticize USCG Proposal On Anchorage Sites In The Hudson

The U.S. Coast Guard is considering establishing anchorage grounds in the Hudson River from Westchester to Ulster County. But local elected officials and environmentalists criticize the proposal — and what they say is a lack of transparency and public involvement.

From Yonkers to Kingston, the Coast Guard proposes 10 anchorage sites for commercial vessels along the Hudson River. Local elected officials gathered near a boat launch Tuesday at the Hudson River Marine in Verplanck in Westchester County to bring awareness to the proposal they believe the public knows little about. New York state Senator Terrence Murphy says his concern focuses on four issues.

“The number-one concern is the environmental impact that it could possibly have on the Hudson River. This is such a pristine river that we all kind of grew up on, and homeland security,” Murphy says. “This just doesn’t make common sense to put six barges that could possibly be full of oil with the terrorism that’s going on in the world, right next to Indian Point, right next to… This just, I don’t know where they conceived this idea from and why they would have these 10 anchorage spots on the Hudson River.”

He also cites navigational hazards and lack of transparency in the proposal process. U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy says two maritime associations requested the anchorage sites for navigational safety reasons.

“We are not taking any of these proposals lightly but, if they were proposed, we have to look into it and see if they can benefit the maritime community or not,” Conroy says.

Meanwhile, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino underscores security concerns.

“New York City and the surrounding area is the number-one terrorist target in the world with Indian Point sitting right here, a nuclear power plant, and having these vessels that are going to be coming in from the Atlantic and from wherever right up the shoreline to dock here, that is something that we should all be concerned about,” says Astorino.

John Cronin is senior fellow for environmental affairs at Pace University and former Hudson Riverkeeper.

“And let me tell you something about the almost four-square miles of parking lot for oil tankers and barges that the Coast Guard wants to create. Three-quarters of them are going to be on traditional, commercial fishing grounds,” Cronin says. “Now, the fishery may be closed right now, but what does that really mean? That means the federal government has totally given up on the restoration of the Hudson River fishery.”

Tino Martin, a Scenic Hudson volunteer who is retired from Westchester County Parks, calls the proposal an environmental disaster waiting to happen and a hazard to recreational boaters and kayakers.

“We just got kayaking back into the Hudson big time and here you are having the kayakers enjoy the river and now you’re going to have these barges that are going to make the other boats go around them,” Martin says. “And you’re going to have less space for the kayakers that like to hug the shore and now there’s motor boats going to be hugging the shore, which is dangerous for them in itself but it’s also going to be a danger for the kayakers.”

The proposed sites do not include Dutchess, but locations across the way. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has requested a public hearing and for the Coast Guard to rethink the proposal.

“This is in incursion on the steady effort by local communities to rebuild, really, their community, their economy, their recreational access in and around the Hudson River,” says Molinaro.

The Coast Guard’s Conroy says the proposal is at the beginning of a two-year process and public input is welcome.

“We’re asking the public to go to the web site, to the docket number, and comment. Put in your concerns, your comments, positive or negative,” Conroy says. “And all of those comments will be collected and analyzed through this comment period.”

Again, Molinaro.

“Access to a web site and submitting public comment through digital means isn’t sufficient. It is not sufficient,” Molinaro says.

Conroy says the comment period has been open for two months and does end September 7. She says there will be public meetings, or hearings, in the spring of 2017, per the proposal process, along with an environmental study.   

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