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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.

Read and share:

  • maria rose randazzo

    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

  • Chuck Culhane

    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.

  • Sean Yates

    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.

  • Bob Dahringer

    “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.

  • CMB

    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.

  • Judy Coutinho

    These barges, anchored in the Hudson River, are more like storage tanks than transport vessels. The river environment is too fragile to risk leaks, and all the critters, two- and four-legged, flying, swimming or crawling, deserve to retain their natural habitat with quiet and with dark nights. Even if they don’t leak oil, these barges drag urban pollution into our rural space. There are alternaties to the barges! Best of all sollutions: leave the oil in the ground. Next best: store it on land where leaks will be noticed sooner and contained easier and transport when needed. Good idea: reinstate the export ban and built up the petroleum stockpiles we used to have. Maybe OK: Use the docking facilities in NY Harbor. Once upon a time, there was a huge shipping industry based in the Harbor

  • Art Scott

    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?

  • Mike Forsyth

    Early this morning I anchored a barge with 3.2 million gallons of gasoline on board in the
    designated anchorage at Hyde Park to await daylight. A while after sunrise, the fog
    lifted enough to proceed, and I weighed anchor and proceeded as far as Port Ewen.
    Fog had set in again, so I anchored in the customary but as of yet undesignated
    anchorage there until later this morning, to await better visibility to proceed to Rensselaer.
    My great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather, who were Kingston boatmen,
    probably used these same anchorages many times, as have I.
    The following is a portion of a letter which I sent to Zephyr Teachout (whose
    congressional campaign I supported), after receiving her email regarding
    the proposed anchorage rule sent after her trip on Riverkeeper.
    Capt. Mike Forsyth

    I consider myself an environmentalist, and am a dues-paying member of
    five organizations [League of Conservation Voters, Nature Conservancy, World
    Wildlife Fund,Adirondack Mountain Club, Appalachian Mountain Club] which
    advocate for environmental and conservation
    interests. To the extent I am ever a single issue voter, my issue is
    global climate change. I am disappointed that you are advocating on
    behalf of objections to the designation of anchorages on the Hudson
    River. These objections are based on fear and a lack of knowledge, and
    a pervasive “not in my backyard” attitude towards economic activities
    that meet basic and unavoidable needs. Unfortunately, there is not much
    to be done about a NIMBY attitude, but knowledge of the facts may offset
    some of the fear caused by lack of knowledge. I know something about
    this subject, since I am a tugboat captain, moving tank barges on the
    Hudson, whose great-great-grandfather was a Hudson River schooner captain.

    First of all, many of the areas for which designation is sought are
    legal for anchoring now, and some have been customarily used for many
    years, maybe since 1614, and this would not change if they did not
    receive special designation. As far as I can tell, the only practical
    difference that it will make to designate these areas as special
    anchorages versus leaving them undesignated, is that vessels anchored in
    a designated anchorage are not required to sound signals (bells, gongs,
    optional whistles) during periods of limited visibility. I suspect that
    neighbors would prefer not to hear bells and gongs and whistles
    throughout a foggy or snowy night, in which case they should favor
    designating the areas. It is frankly silly and pointless to oppose the
    designation.

    Use of anchorages helps prevent oil spills and in no way makes them more
    likely. The purpose of the anchorages is to reduce the possibility of
    groundings or collisions which might result in a pollution incident.
    Sometimes vessels encounter conditions in which it is safer to anchor
    and wait, rather than continue, such as fog, blizzards or other adverse
    weather. During ice season, some transportation companies, including
    the one I work for, only move vessels on the upper river in daylight,
    and anchor at night for a higher degree of navigational safety.
    Sometimes a vessel in a berth in the Port of Albany is delayed in
    sailing, and another vessel bound up-river may have to wait for the
    berth. This is more safely done at anchor below Kingston, than by
    drifting or holding up traffic in the narrow channels on the upper
    river. Regulations enacted after the Exxon Valdez grounding require
    modern navigation equipment, a high level of crew training, and the
    protection of a double hull on barges transporting petroleum products.
    These come close to eliminating the likelihood of a collision or
    grounding, and reduce the possibility of a spill if one did occur. Use
    of anchorages makes navigation even safer, and pollution incidents less
    possible. To prohibit use of customary anchorages would increase risks
    of collision or grounding.

    I read many of the comments regarding the proposal, and it is obvious
    that many commenters want no tug and barge or tanker traffic at all on
    the river. In the real world, the costs and consequences of
    alternatives must be considered. Assuming that those commenters, and
    the other residents of the Hudson Valley and surrounding areas, want to
    continue to drive cars, ride in buses, trains and airplanes
    [and boats, including Riverkeeper], and heat
    their homes, until we go all electric, petroleum products will still be
    transported to distribution terminals in Newburgh, Albany and
    Rensselaer. One tug and barge typically delivers the equivalent of
    about three hundred and seventy tractor-trailer tanker truck loads of
    gasoline or home heating oil. Frequently, four to six tug and barge
    units a day unload at Newburgh and the Port of Albany. If these were
    banned from the river, that would mean fifteen hundred or more
    tractor-trailers a day going up the Thruway from refineries in New
    Jersey, and exiting into local traffic in Newburgh and Albany. Other
    products (including cement, sand, gravel, crushed stone, fertilizer,
    road salt, scrap metals) are also moved by water, eliminating the need
    for many thousands more trucks, with their noise, air pollution, traffic
    congestion and accidents, and wear and tear on roads.

    Some crude oil is moved by tanker or tug and barge down the river from
    Albany. This is done in double-hulled vessels with an excellent safety
    record. The alternative would be to move that crude by train on tracks
    along the west bank of the river. Railroad tank cars are single-skinned
    and comparatively fragile. De-railings have made much news lately,
    causing spills and serious pollution, fires, destruction of property and
    loss of life. These risks are reduced and much better contained in
    ships and barges which must meet laws, treaties and regulations enacted
    in the 1990’s and in universal effect now.

    The vessels that use these customary anchorages are tugs and barges
    which are are US-flagged and owned, have American crews, and are subject
    to regulation and inspection by the US Coast Guard and agencies such as
    the American Bureau of Shipping. They are not flag-of-convenience
    vessels with third world crews or lax regulation in their home ports.
    They are covered by our National Pollution Discharge Elimination System
    regulations which require, among other things, holding tanks for sewage,
    discharge of which is forbidden in the Hudson, as well as restricting
    oil, exhaust and other emissions and discharges from machinery. My boat
    has been issued an International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate
    and an International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate, reflecting
    compliance with strict environmental protection standards. Quite
    literally, one jet ski or outboard with a two-stroke engine puts more
    oil in the water.

    I regard fossil fuels as transitional at this point in history, and
    someday we will all be riding around in electric cars and buses and
    heating our houses with electric heat pumps or solar collectors. But we
    are going to burn a lot of gasoline, diesel fuel and home heating oil
    during the transition. By the way, the wind turbines, towers and blades
    that are part of the transition to clean electricity are transported up
    the Hudson, and west on the Barge Canal, by ships, tugs and barges.

  • Mike Forsyth

    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

  • Mike Forsyth

    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

  • Big Picture

    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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