Riverkeeper Wants NYS Environmental Permit for New TZB Strengthened

Feb 22, 2013

Credit New York State Thruway Authority

The comment period has ended for a draft environmental permit for construction of the replacement Tappan Zee Bridge. At least one environmental group is raising a number of concerns with the draft permit, while state officials maintain the permit has strict requirements.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation had issued for public comment a revised draft permit. The revision came after a final bridge design showed the project would have less of an impact on the Hudson River and environment than was previously indicated. That lesser impact, state officials point out, is because the project will require substantially less dredging than initially thought. And, says Phillip Musegaas, less dredging and less pile driving is a positive in the eyes of environmental group Riverkeeper. However, Musegaas, the Hudson River Program Director and an attorney for Westchester-based Riverkeeper, says his group has submitted a number of concerns to the DEC.

A DEC spokeswoman says the DEC is reviewing Riverkeeper’s comments. And here, says Musegaas, is one of Riverkeeper’s major concerns.

A New York State Thruway Authority spokesman says the environmental mitigation measures for the new Bridge project include stringent requirements and cutting-edge construction techniques to protect the Hudson River, its fish, and other aquatic life.

Last month, the state comptroller and attorney general approved the bridge contract between the Thruway Authority and Tappan Zee Constructors, a 66-month contract that was effective immediately. The bid came in at $3.14 billion. The total project cost is estimated to be $3.9 billion.

Riverkeeper’s Musegaas notes that the Washington D.C.-area bridge to which he referred earlier is over the Potomac River, and he says the Potomac and Hudson share similar characteristics. Yet here’s one thing he says is different.

Meanwhile, State Thruway Authority officials say they have named a project manager to lead a design and construction team for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project. Peter Sanderson will be responsible for keeping the project on schedule and within budget, for an annual salary of $340,000, an amount being criticized by Civil Service Employees Union President Danny Donohue. Donohue says it’s a disgrace to be paying one employee this salary while having laid off 234 Thruway and Canal system union workers a few weeks prior.  The spokesman for the Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation released a statement in response, saying, quote, “the new NY Bridge is one of the largest infrastructure projects in state history and will create tens of thousands of jobs as well as benefit numerous local businesses." The spokesman adds that, quoting again, “with something this important and complex, we need the best project director possible to ensure that it is completed on time and on budget, and we are providing compensation that is significantly less than would be paid in the private sector.”

The Tappan Zee Bridge connects Rockland and Westchester Counties.