Coast Guard Sinks Controversial Hudson River Anchorage Plan for Now

John Jordan | March 2018

A simulation provided by Scenic Hudson of proposed barge anchorages on the Hudson River shown from the Palisades Parkway Overlook. PHOTO CREDIT: Scenic Hudson

NEW YORK—A coalition of business, political and environmental interests’ lobbying efforts to have the Coast Guard abandon a controversial plan to significantly expand anchorages up and down the Hudson River have borne fruit.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced on Tuesday that the establishment of the anchorages was not one of the recommendations in its Hudson River Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment report (PAWSA). Local business and political leaders believe the anchorage expansion is off the table for now, at least.

In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard promulgated an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to seek comprehensive public input and examine whether there is a need for a proposed rule on new anchorage grounds on the Hudson River to promote safe navigation. The U.S. Coast Guard had been considering the adoption of a new rule that would establish new anchorage grounds for commercial vessels along the Hudson River at 10 sites located between Yonkers and Kingston in Ulster County, including 42 long-term berths that could be used for oil storage.

The controversial proposal was highly criticized by federal, state and local politicians, environmental organizations and the business community. The Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors was one of a number of business and environmental organizations that lobbied against the new barge anchorage regulation. In addition, chief elected officials representing communities up and down the Hudson River also came out against the barge anchorage proposal.

Maritime-oriented organizations such as the American Waterways Operators, the Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey and the Hudson River Pilots’ Association supported the Coast Guard proposal.

In June of last year, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that after reviewing more than 10,200 comments from stakeholders, the Coast Guard had suspended future rulemaking decisions and directed a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment be undertaken as well as several workshops be held in connection with the PAWSA.

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), a vocal opponent to the Hudson River barges proposal, said he was encouraged by the final Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment report and noted that it did not include a recommendation that any new anchorage sites be constructed.

“I said we would kill the initial anchorage plan and we did—the PAWSA report confirms that it should stay dead,” said Rep. Maloney. “I’ll keep watching this situation like a hawk—and I won’t let up until we’re certain that the river is safe from new anchorages.”

“Scenic Hudson is pleased to see that the Coast Guard is not recommending establishment of new anchorages along the Hudson in its PAWSA report,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “The workshops established that there is no need for new designated anchorages and that safety on the river can be enhanced through other measures that would not damage the Hudson’s natural resources, community assets and regional economy. However, the report also indicates that the Coast Guard has not yet made any decisions on whether to move forward with anchorages in the future. We must stay vigilant to ensure that the damaging proposal for new anchorages is not revived.”

Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay added that the recommendations of the PAWSA are a “welcome next step toward resolving the very contentious proposal by the tug and barge industry for new anchorages on the Hudson.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer released a statement praising the U.S. Coast Guard’s decision, noting, “The Hudson River should not be a parking lot for large scale barges, which bring unnecessary risks of disaster to our communities. This move would not have happened unless countless Westchester County residents did not make their voices heard. Once the rulemaking period began, residents from all corners of the county made clear that the Hudson River was not the place for an oil barge parking lot. This decision is also a win for local businesses along the river that utilize the breathtaking views the Hudson offers. Our majestic Hudson River is best when we are able to fully appreciate its beauty—unobstructed.”

The final PAWSA report made three key recommendations: creating a Hudson River Safety Committee, increasing recreational boating safety information, and clarifying existing regulations. The Coast Guard stated in its announcement that a Hudson River Stakeholders Committee will provide a forum for relevant stakeholders to address concerns identified by the PAWSA. The Coast Guard plans to continue Hudson River boating safety education efforts, to include coordination with state and local agencies. At the request of PAWSA participants, the Coast Guard plans to increase patrol presence on the Hudson River. Through the PAWSA, the Coast Guard identified ambiguity in existing Hudson River anchorage regulations and is currently reviewing options to address the issue.

“We will take full advantage of the stakeholder partnerships gained through the two PAWSA workshops, and work with the HRSC to discuss how to best reduce risk, and improve the safety and security of the Hudson River,” said Rear Admiral Steven Poulin, First Coast Guard District Commander.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth