Two New York state lawmakers from the Hudson Valley have introduced legislation aimed at safeguarding the Hudson River from proposed anchorage sites. Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard has not yet decided how to proceed with the controversial proposal.
Last year, the Coast Guard proposed creating up to 10 anchorage sites in the Hudson River to park as many as 43 commercial vessels between Yonkers and Kingston. As the Coast Guard wades through the more than 10,000 comments it received by the December close of the public comment period, Republican state Senator Sue Serino has introduced a bill taking aim at the proposal.
“We want to protect the progress that we’ve made on Hudson River, and that we’ve got bipartisan support on this, which we’ve had,” Serino says.
Democrat Didi Barrett introduced the same bill in the Assembly.
“The basic end product of this bill is to, is to create kind of a map of anchorages, points for the state to be able to pinpoint locations along the proposed route where there are critical fish and wildlife habitats, where there are waterfront communities, where there are navigational hazards like drinking water infrastructure and other kinds of environmental conditions that would make it clear these are not suitable sites for placement of an anchorage,” says Barrett.
“We should, as a state, have the ability to exercise our jurisdiction over the river. It’s our river,” says Serino. “I live in Hyde Park and I take, my drinking water comes from the river, so my constituents have a huge concern about what happens in the river.”
Andy Bicking is director of public policy for Poughkeepsie-based Scenic Hudson.
“The legislation as proposed is really going to give a huge opportunity for New York State to bolster its jurisdiction over the Hudson River relating to the U.S. Coast Guard anchorage proposal,” Bicking says. “If New York State gets ahead of the curve and kind of states affirmatively where it does not want anchorages to go, the region’s going to be in a much better position to protect health, the environment and the quality of our waterfront communities.”
Specifically, the lawmakers say the bill would amend the state’s navigation law relating to the establishment of so-called ‘tanker-avoidance zones’ to consider waterfront communities and significant natural habitats, in addition to navigation safety. Barrett says the bill is focused only on the proposed anchorage sites.
“This is shared jurisdiction in the Hudson River and we are not, we’re not willing to just sit by and let the Coast Guard and let the federal government tell us what they’re going to do,” Barrett says. “We, we’re going to be engaged in this process and we want New York State to have as much power to be part of that as possible.”
U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy says she is aware of the bill and other legislation introduced on the federal level aimed at protecting all involved. She says the Coast Guard has been going through and analyzing the public comments, an unprecedented number.
“The people who are reviewing those comments, they decide what to propose in front of the admiral, what is the best way to move forward. We have not gotten to that part yet,” Conroy says. “I would like to say, this is not a quick process. We had more than 10,000 comments and lots of information to review. We want to make sure that any decision that is made is the correct decision for everyone involved.”
And because of where the process is, Conroy says there are no public hearing dates scheduled as of yet. Secnic Hudson’s Bicking says it’s critical to pass the legislation this session.
“We’re expecting that the U.S. Coast Guard will be moving forward with some kind of advanced rulemaking in the very near future. And it’s imperative that the Legislature act to affirm that state’s position before that happens,” says Bicking. “But we’ve also seen some very concerning executive orders come out of the White House. Back in January, there was a proposal to fast track federal permitting processes related to oil and gas infrastructure. And one could make the case that the anchorage proposal fits that definition and, if that were to unfold, then that state would be the last and best defense against protecting them from this devastating proposal.”
The bill has been sent to the Environmental Conservation Committee in each house. Barrett’s bill has five co-sponsors, including other assemblymembers from the Hudson Valley. Serino’s bill has two co-sponsors — Republican George Amedore and David Carlucci, an Independent Democrat.