Anchorage Site Opponents Appeal To Homeland Security Secretary

Dec 27, 2016

The debate over whether the U.S. Coast Guard should be allowed to establish anchorage sites on the Hudson River is continuing. Calls to halt a rulemaking process to the anchorages are being directed to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. New York’s attorney general and a Poughkeepsie-based environmental group have now sent letters. Meanwhile, Coast Guard personnel are poring over thousands of comments it received on the proposal.

The environmental protection bureau chief from New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman’s office wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson December 23, asking him to instruct the Coast Guard to withdraw the proposal to create up to 10 anchorage sites in the Hudson River to park as many as 43 commercial vessels between Yonkers and Kingston. The letter cites a lack of manifest need for long-term parking for barges containing oil or other materials. The letter also says that it does not appear the Army Corps Chief of Engineers has recommended such a proposal.

In an emailed statement, Schneiderman says, “The Hudson River is one of our state’s greatest natural resources, and we must remain vigilant in protecting it. The proposal to add 43 new anchorage sites along the river doesn’t pass the test. I join the thousands of New Yorkers who have raised serious concerns about the proposal in urging its withdrawal by the Coast Guard.”

Prior to the attorney general, Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan wrote to Secretary Johnson, who grew up in Wappingers Falls, urging the same. Sullivan says proposed anchorage sites with barges containing crude oil and other hazardous materials could provide targets for terror attacks.

“Yonkers is New York’s fourth largest city and there would be 16 barges allowed to anchor for long periods of time, up to 30 days, right off the city’s waterfront,” Sullivan says. “Two of the new anchorages lie within three miles Indian Point nuclear power plant.”

Sullivan says the anchorage sites also would put drinking water resources and wildlife habitat at risk.

“And while the industry is claiming they would increase safety, you can’t have these massive areas that are occupied by floating bulk storage facilities for hazardous materials without increasing the likelihood of spill and long-term damage to the Hudson estuary because crude oil and other hazardous materials are very, very difficult to clean up,” Sullivan says.

The public comment period on the U.S. Coast Guard’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking, which closed December 6, has yielded 10,209 comments. Spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy says the Coast Guard is reviewing those comments.

“The personnel, Waterways Management personnel up in Boston, are going through all more than 10,000 comments that came in during the six-month comment period for the advance notice to public rulemaking,” Conroy says. “We are continuing with that process, analyzing all of those comments, all of the information that came in and figuring out how to move forward.”

Conroy says that receiving more than 10,000 comments is not usual Coast Guard fare.

“Advance notice to public rulemaking goes out fairly regularly,” says Conroy. “There are a couple of other dockets going on as the same time as this advance notice of public rulemaking, whether it was down in the Chesapeake or other places in New York,  and they’ve garnered a couple, one-to-three comments.”

Sullivan says opposition is not limited to environmental groups. In fact, the Business Council of Westchester is another group that has written to Secretary Johnson requesting that he terminate the process. Sullivan wants to see the process terminated before any formal rulemaking continues, and before the transfer of power to a new administration. That said, Sullivan is hopeful the Trump Administration would scuttle the proposal in favor of preserving the river and tourism.

“President-elect Trump has stated that he wants to see an increase in oil and fossil fuel exploitation under his administration,” Sullivan says. “But I think Mr. Trump also recognizes the issue of brand, and the Hudson Valley brand will be damaged if it becomes an industrial waterway.”

Sullivan says his group’s appeal is not over, with plans to reach out to President Obama.