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Coast Guard’s Hudson River Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment Report (PAWSA) – ‘a welcome next step’

A tug and barge-anchored-Hudson River at Hyde Park-JLipscomb-091616-2

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The U.S. Coast Guard today issued its Hudson River Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment Report.

According to the Coast Guard’s announcement, the key recommendations stemming from the November workshops are the establishment of a Hudson River Safety Committee; increased recreational boater safety information, and clarification of current U.S. Coast Guard regulations on the river.

“The result of the PAWSA is a welcome next step toward resolving the very contentious proposal by the tug and barge industry for new anchorages on the Hudson,” said Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay. “The Coast Guard specifically defers any discussion or decision on additional anchorages to a later date. Whether or not a new anchorage proposal is ever put forward, it’s clear that any new regulations will involve public comment. We hope that the public will remain very much engaged in speaking up for the protection of the river as the process moves forward. Once again, we appreciate the methodical, transparent approach the Coast Guard has taken regarding the ongoing anchorage debate.”

Riverkeeper is pleased to report that the first recommendation, for a safety committee, is already under way. The committee has held two meetings as the “Hudson River Safety, Navigation and Operations Committee.”

“I’m very satisfied that the steering committee, comprised of 10 voting members, represents the full breadth of stakeholders – from industry, environmental advocacy, recreational boating and riverfront communities,” said John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President for Advocacy.

Although the original proposal for 10 new long-term anchorage grounds is off the table, new proposals may be put forward in the future. The Coast Guard received more than 10,000 public comments, overwhelmingly opposing the industry’s request. Riverkeeper and members of the public cited a range of far-reaching environmental impacts including the increased potential for oil spills, “scarring” of the river bottom from anchors and anchor chains, which could affect endangered sturgeon and other species, and noise and light pollution from certain barges.

“Those concerned Hudson Valley residents and river advocates should stay tuned, stay vocal, stay vigilant, and stay involved,” Lipscomb said. “The outpouring of public support for the river is like nothing we’ve ever seen, and we believe it is the beginning of a new future for the Hudson. Without that powerful constituency, the river doesn’t have much chance at recovery.”

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