Hudson River Waterfront Alliance Releases Key Findings in Barge Anchorage Study
Real Estate In-Depth | December 2, 2016
YONKERS—Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano reconvened the Hudson River Waterfront Alliance at the Yonkers Waterfront Esplanade on Dec. 1 to announce the alliance’s maritime counsel and expert findings regarding the proposal by the Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey Tug and Barge Committee for 43 additional barge anchorages along the Hudson River from Yonkers to Kingston.
The Hudson River Waterfront Alliance (HRWA), convened by Mayor Spano, is an advocacy group consisting of representatives from 19 municipalities from Yonkers to Peekskill that oppose the additional barge anchorages proposed by the Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey Tug and Barge Committee. The Hudson River Waterfront Alliance contracted Mark Chertok of Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C. as legal counsel and maritime expert Dr. Charles R. Cushing. P.E. to develop and research the submitted public comments.
HWRA’s maritime counsel and expert concluded the committee has “fallen far short of demonstrating an actual need for these anchorages,” their locations or for any long-term anchoring in this area. Legal counsel also concluded that the proposed rule-making requires review under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and that the “categorical exclusion” from environmental review typically afforded new anchorage sites is completely inappropriate in this case. Legal counsel’s findings demonstrate that the anchorage proposal would have numerous significant environmental impacts which collectively require a full environmental review before the proposal can proceed further, the Waterfront Alliance stated.
The findings were submitted by the HRWA to the United States Coast Guard as public comments opposing the proposal of the 43 new anchorage locations, 22 of which will be located along the Westchester County Hudson River waterfront.
“After spending months reviewing the proposal put forth by the Tug and Barge Committee, it has become apparent that the United States Coast Guard statutory standards for establishing new anchorages have not been satisfied,” said Yonkers Mayor Spano. “The committee has not provided any factual basis that supports the need for an additional 43 anchorages. What they have shown is a proposal with profound economic, environmental and quality of life impacts which require—at a minimum—a full review under NEPA. Our alliance is committed now more than ever to make our voices heard and demand proven reasons for these anchorages and ensure that potential environmental impacts are reviewed thoroughly.”
City Council President Liam McLaughlin said, “The Coast Guard knew or should have known about federal coastal management zone consistency and notification requirements, and consistency with our designation as a National Heritage Area and Natural Heritage River and the applicable law and rules that would have given local officials a say. It’s disturbing that they’ve deviated from the normal process, and it’s time to put the brakes on and conduct a full environmental impact study on the proposed anchorages, including the impact of doing nothing.”
- The alliance’s submitted public comments include implications the U.S. Coast Guard should consider when evaluating the additional barges proposal, which would effectively re-industrialize the Hudson River, which is listed as a American Heritage River and designated as a National Heritage Area. Some of the issues raised by the alliance include:
- Tides and weather will cause the barge anchors to constantly grind the floor of the Hudson River, stirring up long-dormant PCBs.
- The transport of largely hazardous materials, in the form of crude and tar sands oil, brings the threat of catastrophic oil spills that would undermine the use and enjoyment of the waterfront, as well as destroy fish, bird and wildlife populations and ecosystems.
- The barge zone would effectively displace recreational boating and fishing in the anchorage areas, and drastically increase the risk of collisions and loss of life.
- The socio-economic impacts of the light, air, noise and view shed pollution that could result from these long-term anchorages would threaten the revitalization efforts valued at more than $1 billion, which are now underway in communities that lie on the shores of the Hudson in Westchester County.
- The proposed anchorages would unjustly enrich the private barge industry by giving it effectively exclusive control of a public resource for use as a long-term rent-free floating parking lot and enable barge operators to stage indefinitely while awaiting market/price shifts for their product.
- The anchorage proposal is inconsistent with numerous New York State Department of State coast zone policies, including Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans.
Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Historic Hudson River Towns and the Natural Resources Defense Council joined the Hudson River Waterfront Alliance at the event.
“The public can see through this proposal, a drastic increase in the number of anchorages,” Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said. “It’s not about safety. It’s about expanding the industrial use of the river, especially for crude oil transport. A spill of crude oil would be poison for life in the river. And the public will not allow it. Don’t forget that some communities rely on the Hudson for their drinking water. Anchors and anchor chains could put habitat for endangered sturgeon at risk. All the potential impacts must be thoroughly studied before any decision is made.”
Scenic Hudson Land Use and Environmental Advocacy Attorney Audrey Friedrichsen said, “We call on the Coast Guard to halt the rule-making process that would establish new Hudson River anchorages. Scenic Hudson has developed impact analysis and maps that show what would be at stake in turning the Hudson into an industrial parking lot with barges carrying millions of gallons crude oil. This proposal puts at risk the Hudson Valley’s public health and safety as well as prime environmental and economic assets—and our region would receive no benefit. We urge the public to demand that the Coast Guard terminate the rule-making process by submitting comments by December 6.”
“Under the Federal Coastal Zone Management program, local jurisdictions are empowered through the NY State Department of State to adopt Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans,” said Jerry Faiella, Historic Hudson River Towns Executive Director. “Those plans, once adopted and approved by the NYSDOS, require all parties, governmental and private that are putting forth an action to be compliant with the plan. We are expecting nothing less from the U.S. Coast Guard with respect to this issue.”
HRWA has collected more than 2,000 signatures in support of a petition to the Coast Guard; extending the public comment period from September to December; urging federal, state and local action in opposition to the proposal; and conducting extensive research with respect to the rule-making process and the actions communities may take to prevent the proposal from being approved.
Yonkers Mayor Spano, local elected officials, Hudson River Waterfront Alliance members and chief officials with Hudson River advocacy groups—Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Historic Hudson River Towns—gathered at the Yonkers waterfront to announce findings regarding the proposal of additional barge anchorages on the river. (PHOTO: MAURICE MERCADO)