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NY Congressman: Four Principles Must Guide USCG Safety Assessment

Hudson Valley Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney Monday announced next steps regarding the suspended U.S. Coast Guard proposal for anchorage sites along the Hudson River. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports from the Newburgh waterfront.

The Coast Guard at the end of June suspended the rulemaking process for a proposal of up to 10 additional anchorage sites between Yonkers and Kingston. And it directed a formal study through a longstanding process called a ports and waterways safety assessment, or a PAWSA. Maloney, a Democrat who represents the 18th District, has four principles he wants to ensure are included.

“The first is that Hudson Valley voices have to matter,” Maloney says. “Local voices have to matter.”

The second is relying on facts and science.

“Number three, the river gets a vote. The river gets a vote,” Maloney says. “The Hudson River is a national treasure.”

The fourth is let the sunshine in — a call for transparency.

“Over my dead body is this going to be a backdoor way to bring this proposal back. And over my dead body is it going to be some way to shut out the local community and railroad through some ill-guided proposal in another form. We have killed the anchorages proposals; that’s good. We’re putting the final nails in the coffin on that,” Maloney says. “And we’re going to go forward on a constructive conversation on public safety but it has to align with these principles. And we are going to bend and mold the PAWSA process in whatever way we have to do to get that done.”

The PAWSA includes structured meetings of select workgroups comprised of waterway users, which are appointed by the Coast Guard, including but not limited to the industry and commercial interests, environmental organizations, academia, recreational groups and community representatives. Scenic Hudson Director of Public Policy Andy Bicking has a concern about this.

“PAWSA guidance that the Coast Guard uses calls for a 60/40 ratio of waterway users to other stakeholders. That means, by nearly two-thirds majority, industrial interests will be driving the PAWSA process,” Bicking says. “And if we are not effective in the advocacy in supporting the congressman for these principles which he has outlined for us today, we’re going to be starting from behind. And that is not acceptable for Scenic Hudson.”

U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy says the PAWSA process has been conducted with the 60/40 ratio intact.

“There can be wiggle room,” says Conroy. “And how the people in that district who decide on who’s going, it’s up to them to decide how they’re going to choose but, for the most part, it has been set in 60/40 as per our precedented cases.”

Republican Beacon Mayor Randy Casale supports Maloney’s principles.

“The congressman’s got it right with his priorities and that everybody’s got to have a voice at the table, including the river, and it’s got to be open. And we’re all concerned about safety on the river as well as we are protecting the river,” Casale says. “So if we all come together with open minds, I think things could work for everybody and the best outcome will come out of it. I always believe you put everybody at a table and only good things can happen.”

He wants someone from the Beacon community to be part of the workgroup.

“It don’t have to be me but it needs to be somebody from our community because the river’s an important part of our economic development, our recreation, our quality of life,” says Casale. “So we need to have a say on it.”

Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados appeared with Maloney.

“A suspension to this process does not mean we’re out of the woods. And this is a great idea in really holding the feet to the fire when it comes to the whole process and what Sean just described about us being able to have a voice in the process, and the river being able to have a voice in the process and that the process is transparent and open,” Skartados says.

Again, Maloney.

“We’re going to stay on offense. We’re not taking our eye of this for a second. And, just so it’s clear, we don’t believe we need new anchorage sites on the Hudson River. We think this is a big victory that all of us have won together. And we are willing to have a smart conversation about safety, but we are not going to be hoodwinked and we’re not going to be railroaded and we’re not going to be shut out of this process,” Maloney says. “And I’m very glad that I’m on the Coast Guard Committee of Jurisdiction because it gives me a very important seat at the table in all matters related to the Coast Guard and how they do their important work.”

Riverkeeper representatives and Cornwall-on-Hudson Mayor Brendan Coyne also were on hand in support of Maloney’s principles. The Coast Guard’s Conroy says there are nearly two weeks left to be considered for the workgroups.

“If members of the public wish to be considered for participation in the workshop, they can email their request to:  hudsonriverpawsa@uscg.mil by July 21,” Conroy says. “And if you want to be included then please include your name, your contact information, your connection to the waterway,  your experience and your related skills.”

She says a person may be recommended to serve on a workgroup via this same email address. The workgroups are scheduled to begin in the fall.

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