A Poughkeepsie-based environmental group is calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to halt the rulemaking process regarding a controversial proposal for anchorage sites in the Hudson River. The call comes one week before the end of the comment period.
The U.S. Coast Guard would create up to 10 anchorage sites in the Hudson River to park as many as 43 commercial vessels between Yonkers and Kingston. Hayley Carlock is director of environmental advocacy for Scenic Hudson, which has just produced a virtual map.
“We developed this map that I think just really highlights how extensive the threats are to the Hudson Valley,” Carlock says.
Threats she says, such as impeding economic development projects along riverfront communities and spoiling views.
“The visual impact, it’s not just the shoreline areas that are immediately adjacent to where the barges would be anchored that will be impacted depending on elevation and other factors,” says Carlock. “There are areas quite far inland including, stunningly, some isolated areas in Catskill Park where you could actually visibly see those barges. Of course the impact would be even more in places like Bear Mountain State Park, Untermyer Park in Yonkers, Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park in Beacon and our new High Banks Preserve in Esopus, Storm King State Park.”
Edward Kelly is executive director of the Maritime Association of the Port of NY/NJ, one of three groups requesting the anchorage sites.
“There’s been a lot of intentional disinformation and misinformation that has been put out by various groups who I believe might be more interested in donations and membership than in portraying the actual facts,” Kelly says. “This is about safety for the existing traffic. It’s strange that no one has had problems with viewsheds or anything else up until this point.”
Carlock says the map shows eight of the 10 proposed anchorages are within state designated significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats. Kelly says there are reports showing anchorages do not degrade fish populations. Meanwhile, Carlock says six drinking water intakes on the Hudson River could be impacted by an oil spill from an anchored barge. Again, Kelly.
“Reality is that water transportation continues to be the safest, most environmentally friendly and cheapest way to move these bulk commodities,” Kelly says.
Here’s U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy.
“There is still time for any interested parties to please go to the docket and input their comments, their questions, what they want on the docket including, here’s a virtual map, please take a look at this, and include that in the docket,” Conroy says. “There are more than 5,000 comments on the docket right now. When the comment period closes, all of those comments, all of the information that is supplied to the docket is going to be collected. It’s going to be analyzed. From there, we will decide on how we are going to move forward.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Coast Guard had received 5,800 comments. Carlock says Scenic Hudson’s map shows other views that would be impacted.
“I think one of the other things that we were surprised to find is just how many historic sites on the National Historic Register would be impacted,” says Carlock. “There’s just over 260 sites on the national register from which the anchorages would actually be visible.”
Carlock says that parking barges carrying crude oil presents targets for terrorist attacks, noting that two of the proposed anchorage sites lie within three miles of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Kelly, of the Maritime Association of the Port of NY/NJ, says that while respecting opponents’ input, he dismisses conjecture.
“The commodities moving on the river virtually exclusively are for the benefit of the people in the Hudson River Valley. And we will take it a lot more seriously when some of these protestors do not drive their cars to the meetings with gasoline that’s been brought up the river, when they don’t meet in offices and locations where the electricity is provided by power plants where the fuel has been brought by barge to the power plants, when they don’t require salt and sand for the New York winters.”
The comment period on the proposal closes December 6.