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6 things you should know about the proposed Hudson River anchorages

6 things you should know about the proposed anchorages

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1. They say it’s about safety. But it’s really about oil. In its request to the Coast Guard, the shipping industry made very clear what’s driving this:

“For several years the United States of America has developed as a major energy producing nation and the great port of Albany as a leading export for … trade of American Bakken Crude Oil and Ethanol. Trade will increase on the Hudson River significantly over the next few years with the lifting of the ban on American Crude exports for foreign trade and federally designated anchorages are key to supporting trade.”
Maritime Association of the Port of NY/NJ Tug and Barge Committee, Jan. 21, 2016 letter to U.S. Coast Guard

The anchorage request is part of something much bigger – it comes amid a number of efforts to significantly increase the use of the Hudson as an oil shipping hub. Projects are in the works to expand the ports of Albany and Coeymans, for example, and increase the carrying capacity of the crude oil rail line from Buffalo to the coastal refineries. In addition, the Global oil terminal in Albany is fighting to gain permission to heat heavy “tar sands” crude for transport down the Hudson.

Until 2012, crude oil was not an issue on the Hudson. Starting in 2012, the Hudson became a shipping corridor for about 25 percent of the oil coming from North Dakota.

Several accidents around the country clearly show that crude oil cannot be recovered or cleaned up if it is spilled into a waterway. As one NOAA spills expert said to us: We’ll just have to get used to the idea that we can’t recover Bakken after a spill.

And crude oil is poison for life in the river. After the oil train disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec, where 47 people were burned to death, some of the oil ran into the Chaudière River, studies have found a dramatic increase in the presence of lesions, fin erosion and other deformities in many species of fish.

2. The sturgeon were here first. Several of the proposed anchorages are in areas relied upon by sturgeon for their survival. Both species of Hudson River sturgeon – Atlantic and shortnose – are on the endangered species list. Anchors and anchor chains scar and disturb the river bottom, where sturgeon spawn and feed and rest.

Before any new anchorages are approved, researchers must determine definitively whether the disturbance to sturgeon habitat is detrimental or not. The sturgeon were here first.

3. Blindingly bright and exceedingly loud. Until fall of 2015, northbound crude oil tugs and barges anchored between Rhinecliff and Port Ewen waiting for loading terminals in Albany. Before 2012, that reach of the river was quiet, dark and serene at night. But stadium lighting and generator noise on the barges ended that. That’s when residents of the community started complaining to the Coast Guard. How will noise and light pollution affect communities near the other proposed anchorages? Each community will have to speak up.

4. ‘Long term’ anchorages? No thank you. 42 of the 43 proposed anchorages are defined in the Federal Register as “long term.” Both the industry and the Coast Guard are adamant that the anchorages will only be used short-term. We need to know the truth.

We won’t let the Hudson be a parking lot for barges. Other industries don’t get to park their vehicles in public spaces. Does U-Haul get to park its fleet of unrented trucks in Adirondack State Park?

5. Speak up! Your community has a say. Many local communities have developed plans – Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans – for the future of their Hudson River waterfronts. The review of the anchorage proposal must address and be consistent with these plans. Don’t forget: Make sure your federal and state elected officials know specifics about where your community stands on the future use and development of its waterfront – whether you have an LWRP or not. Make sure your community files comments with the Coast Guard before Dec. 6.

6. The anchorage proposal must get comprehensive environmental review. The Coast Guard is so far doing what we need them to do: Giving the public advance notice and soliciting input before deciding on a future ‘official’ proposal, anticipated in Spring of 2017. New anchorage grounds would clearly have a range of significant, far-reaching environmental impacts that must be looked into and understood before any decision can be made.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires a detailed review for most federal proposals as part of the decision making process. The review process is open to the public and requires a comprehensive look at ALL environmental impacts. However, anchorage proposals fall into a loophole, and no such review is required for this proposal. The public should ask for a full environmental impact statement.

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9 responses to “6 things you should know about the proposed Hudson River anchorages”

  1. maria rose randazzo says:

    AS the last line states we need a full disclosure environmental impact statement. Too many facts are being distorted by the side that wants these barges parked. Think of the impact on the river environment if problems arises It will destroy all the revitalization that has been done over the last thirty years. Someone is in a really big hurry to get the oil moved around and forgets that moving up a river can only go so fast not like a jet plane on air.. And any movement in the water of the Hudson River effects the ecology of the living creatures and plants. Work with what we have don’t ruin it

  2. Chuck Culhane says:

    The oil people see dollar bills instead of a living river, fat profits flowing into their coffers enriching the already rich. They will brook no opposition and try to buy and lie their way to accomplish their pernicious ventures, to the detriment of peoples’ health and the fish and animals well being. If we let them have their way we are betraying the future generations. It is time to act and stop them in their odious tracks.

  3. Sean Yates says:

    Let one of these barges run aground at night in the winter and you’ll see envronmental impact. They are trying to prevent that. When the river ices up USCG restricts passage to daylight only. We anchor at night. We also anchor when fog sets in. Restricted viz and manuvering up the Hudson is a disaster waiting to happen. We need more safe places to anchor. Current anchorages are too far south and fill up quickly. Some one is always left out and now is a danger because he has nowhere to lay up. We are not Parking fleets here. We are awaiting either a berth or safe transit conditions. You think this is crazy? Go to the Mississippi or Ohio where they tie multiple barges up to trees on the bank.

  4. Bob Dahringer says:

    “Too many facts are being distorted by both sides.”
    There ya go, Maria, all fixed.
    Like any hot-button issue, theres always going to be “spin” put out by each group, no matter the cause.
    I have asked Riverkeeper direct, repeated questions about some of their, ahem, “fact checks”. The response to date? Nothing, Zero.
    As far as the industries position re needing more anchorages, there spin going on there too. There needs to be transparency on both sides.
    In that vein, I post using my real name and I sail as a USCG licensed engineer, so I feel Im qualified to give my views as someone who has been there and done that. If I don’t know an answer, I will admit it.
    Theres other professional mariners responding to these blogs and posts being put out, feel free to ask us questions. Knowledge is a good thing.

  5. CMB says:

    You don’t need special anchorages to anchor for safety. You can do that now!
    Also I see barges going up and down the river in all seasons.

  6. Art Scott says:

    My wife and I have sailed a 30′ triton on the Hudson River and beyond since 1977, until recently and are acutely in favor of protecting the environment. We also like to drive our car, keep our house warm and buy things made from petroleum. It’s very difficult getting factual answers1 Let me try a couple on you:

    Why do anchored vessels keep such brilliant lights on at night?

    Why do anchored vessels make so much noise?

  7. Mike Forsyth says:

    Fair questions. The Inland Regulations for Prevention of Collisions, Rule 30(b) requires vessels over 100 meters to use “all available working” lights while at anchor at night or during limited visibility.
    Anchored vessels make so much noise mostly because of generators running to provide electricity for, among other things, the lights. More recently designed vessels and machinery generally are somewhat improved in this regard, as more attention is being paid to crew fatigue and livability issues due to noise, and to the overall environmental footprint.
    Capt. Mike

  8. Mike Forsyth says:

    The alternative to one barge-load of gasoline is 370 tractor-trailer tanker trucks loading at a refinery in New Jersey and traveling up the NYS Thruway to Newburgh or Albany, and joining the local traffic in those areas.
    “Use the docking facilities in NY Harbor”: they are being used, to load the barges which deliver gasoline, home heating oil, diesel fuel and aviation fuel to Albany and Newburgh.
    Capt. Mike

  9. Big Picture says:

    The bright lights are because the Regulations for Prevention of Collision, Inland Rule 30(b), requires anchored vessels over 100 meters to use “all available working” lights at night or during limited visibility. The noise is mostly from generators to power the lights among other things. LED floodlights, which need less power, are installed on most newly built vessels, and are gradually replacing the lights on older vessels. That, and modern design with noise reduction in mind, should eventually improve the noise situation.

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