Blogs > Boat Blog > Riverkeeper submits comments on proposed Hudson River anchorages

Riverkeeper submits comments on proposed Hudson River anchorages

‘The public has never spoken so broadly or so loudly’ for the Hudson

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People in the Hudson Valley have spoken up for their river like never before.

The last six months have brought out a unified plea in response to a proposal to dramatically increase designated areas for commercial vessels to drop anchor in the Hudson River.

Almost all of the 10,000+ comments submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard – including those sent by Riverkeeper today – call for rejection of the plan requested by industry to designate 10 new anchorage grounds with a combined 43 berths, occupying over 2,400 acres in the Hudson.

The comments also send a broader message: We are happy that the life in the Hudson River is slowly being restored to health, we are proud of this 50-year-old fight, and we are not willing to take a step back.

“In my experience – and, I believe, in the history of the Hudson Valley – there has never been an outpouring of love and caring for the river such as we have seen in this case,” said John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper’s Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President for Advocacy. “The public has never spoken so broadly or so loudly, with such a unified voice, even in historic battles ranging from Storm King Mountain to GE and its PCBs. I believe this effort, win or lose, will go down in history as a moment that finally galvanized the entire valley to come out and protect the river.”

Today, December 6, was the final day to submit comments on the Coast Guard’s “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” to establish the new anchorage grounds. The proposed rulemaking was prompted by requests from the Maritime Association of New York/New Jersey’s Tug & Barge Committee and other industry groups.

In a 39-page comment letter, Riverkeeper said any formal proposal that may be issued for anchorage grounds in the Hudson must undergo a comprehensive environmental review – including a full environmental impact statement. Riverkeeper urged the Coast Guard to continue to make every effort to involve the public in this process, including extended comment periods and public hearings in every affected county.

Click here for a PDF of Riverkeeper’s comment letter.

An excerpt:

Centuries of industrial development and pollution have left their mark on the Hudson Valley. Rail lines cutting off marshes run along the River on both sides; tributaries have been dammed, depriving fish of spawning grounds; dredge and fill projects have caused the loss of shallow water habitat; power lines and pipelines (existing and proposed) line the corridor; power plants use river water for cooling, and coal tar contamination persists at manufactured gas terminals. The River remains polluted from a long list of businesses, like Anaconda in Hastings, General Motors in Tarrytown, and General Electric, whose PCB contamination made the Hudson River one of the largest Superfund sites in the nation.

The proposal to establish new anchorage grounds, and the threat of reindustrialization that comes with it, could undermine decades of progress toward restoring the River and revitalizing Hudson Valley communities. Therefore, Riverkeeper urges the USCG to reject the proposal. Should the USCG choose to proceed, the proposed rule must at least undergo comprehensive environmental review, including a full environmental impact statement.

Executive Summary

At the request of the Maritime Association, the USCG is considering a proposal that would drastically increase the number of authorized anchorage grounds on the Hudson River. The proposal, and the threat of reindustrialization that comes with it, jeopardizes the immense ecological, recreational, and economic value of this great resource.

Riverkeeper respectfully submits the following comments on the proposal to establish new anchorage grounds on the Hudson River:

I. The new anchorage grounds are not necessary for safe navigation. The USCG has the authority to establish new anchorage grounds where necessary for safe navigation. Here, there has been absolutely no justification or demonstration that the new anchorage grounds are actually required for safe navigation on the Hudson River. However, the Maritime Association has clearly indicated that the proposal is being driven by an anticipated, significant increase in crude oil transport. Increased transport of crude oil leads to an increased risk that a devastating oil spill could occur on the Hudson River. In addition to this significant risk, the USCG should consider other navigational risks associated with the proposal in order to determine whether any new anchorage grounds are actually necessary for safe navigation.

II. The proposal to establish new anchorage grounds would require comprehensive environmental review, including a full environmental impact statement. Should the USCG move forward, the proposal must be subject to National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) review. While proposed rules to establish new anchorage grounds may be categorically excluded from NEPA, the USCG’s obligations do not end there. If an otherwise categorically excluded activity meets certain criteria, it must still undergo comprehensive environmental review. This proposal cannot be categorically excluded from NEPA because:

  • The proposal would likely involve many significant impacts, including reindustrialization of the Hudson River (e.g., increased crude oil transport, increased barge and vessel traffic, viewshed obstructions); scarring and scouring of the river bottom; and air, noise, and light pollution.
  • The proposal undeniably involves significant controversy on environmental grounds, as evidenced by the overwhelming local opposition from towns, elected officials, and residents. To date, the ANPR has generated over 8,800 public comments.
  • The proposal would likely have significant impacts on historic sites, including a National Historic Landmark District and dozens of other historic areas, landmarks, parks, and preserves.
  • The proposal would likely be inconsistent with several environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, New York State’s Coastal Management Program, and several Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs.

III. The proposal to establish new anchorage grounds could impact endangered species and/or critical habitat. The Hudson River is home to endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon. Given the presence of these species, as well as the fact that the entire Hudson River, from the New York Harbor to Troy, New York, will likely be designated as critical habitat, the proposal should prompt an Endangered Species Act consultation. Riverkeeper is particularly concerned about the impacts that scarring and scouring from anchors and chains may have on endangered sturgeon habitat.

IV. The proposal to establish new anchorage grounds would likely be inconsistent with New York State’s Coastal Management Program. Federal activities must be consistent with State coastal management programs. This proposal, however, would likely be inconsistent with several of New York State’s coastal policies, including those related to significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats; historic and cultural resources; and scenic quality. The proposal also threatens to undermine several Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs. Given the widespread, significant impacts associated with this proposal, including air, noise, and light pollution; increased barge and vessel traffic; and viewshed obstructions, it is hard to imagine how it could be consistent with policies to protect coastal areas and revitalize communities.

V. The proposal would likely impact historic sites. The Hudson Valley has immense historic significance. If the USCG moves forward, it would likely be required to undergo a historic preservation review to identify, evaluate, and mitigate or avoid adverse impacts on historic sites. The USCG should also evaluate whether the proposal will negatively impact other areas of historic, cultural, and ecological significance. Again, given the widespread, significant impacts associated with this proposal, is difficult to see how the USCG will adequately protect these sites.

VI. The USCG must consider the oil spill risk associated with an increase in the transport of crude oil on the Hudson River. The proposal to establish new anchorage grounds must be considered in context as part of a larger effort to increase crude oil transport on the River. A significant quantity of crude oil is already routed through the Port of Albany, that that amount may increase with Congressional action to lift the ban on crude oil exports. This proposal would expand the capacity of the Hudson River as a “virtual pipeline” for crude oil. In reviewing this proposal, Riverkeeper urges the USCG to carefully consider the risk that an oil spill poses to the River and its aquatic ecosystems; to public safety; and to local economies in the Hudson Valley.

Click here to read other comments submitted to the Coast Guard.

Learn more at Riverkeeper’s information hub on the anchorage proposal.

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