U.S. Coast Guard Suspends Hudson River Anchorage Plan

John Jordan | June 29, 2017

Barge on Hudson. Photo Credit: Carolyn Marks Blackwood

NEW YORK—Federal, state and county officials praised the recent U.S. Coast Guard’s decision to suspend a proposed new rule expanding anchorages on the Hudson River.

On Wednesday (June 28th) U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steven Poulin, Commander of the First Coast Guard District, reported that after reviewing more than 10,200 comments from stakeholders, the Coast Guard has suspended future rulemaking decisions and directed a formal risk identification and evaluation of the Hudson River—a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA).

In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard promulgated an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) 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. 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 political and business organizations that lobbied against the new barge anchorage regulation.

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 support the Coast Guard proposal.

The PAWSA process, the Coast Guard explained is a “disciplined approach to identify major waterway safety hazards, estimate risk levels, evaluate potential mitigation measures, and set the stage for implementation of selected measures to reduce risk.”

In the fall, the Coast Guard will form and convene a group of waterway users and stakeholders to conduct a two-day structured workshop to meet the aforementioned objectives and ensure the PAWSA process is a joint effort.

The Coast Guard will announce the workshop dates, times, locations, and participant selection process in a separate notice. Within the workshop capacity, the District Commander’s goal is to build a team that helps ensure the diverse concerns conveyed in the ANPRM comments are represented through the PAWSA risk analysis process. The discussions will help promote navigation safety and environmental protection, the Coast Guard stated.

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in a prepared statement, said of the Coast Guard’s decision, “I am glad the Coast Guard has come around to our way of thinking. This is a victory that the Hudson Valley won together—from the 10,000 residents who submitted comments to the bipartisan coalition of elected officials across all levels of government who came together with one voice to protest this terrible idea. Our river is a national treasure that should be preserved and protected for generations—not turned into a parking lot for commercial oil ships.”

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino stated, “This was a clear win for the people of Westchester County and all those who enjoy the Hudson River. The federal government’s plan to reindustrialize the Hudson River and create a giant parking lot along its banks for tankers was a terrible idea from the start. Although it never should have been proposed, we’re grateful the Coast Guard listened to the public and made the right decision.”

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a prepared statement, “The Hudson River is one of our greatest resources and we have a fundamental responsibility to protect it. As I’ve long argued, the anchorage proposal simply didn’t pass the test. I’m glad the Coast Guard now agrees—proving that when a community speaks out, our voices can make a difference.”

Environmental organization Riverkeeper praised the Coast Guard’s decision, but noted the suspension does not mean the issue has been laid to rest.

Riverkeeper Vice President of Advocacy John Lipscomb said, “We’re encouraged by the Coast Guard’s announcement to suspend its rulemaking on the proposed anchorages and we look forward to learning the details of their plan. It will be essential for the public to have a seat at the table during the Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment, which the Coast Guard now plans to undertake. This decision by the Coast Guard does not necessarily mean that the anchorages will not one day be authorized. We at Riverkeeper will not relax our vigilance in the least in the coming year and we hope that the public, the environmental community and the elected officials representing the valley and the river will do the same.”

Last week, the State Senate joined the Assembly in passing legislation that better enables the state to protect the Hudson and waterfront communities from a re-industrialization of the river and the dangerous oil barges that the proposed anchorages would support, Riverkeeper reported. The bill passed by a vote of 93-2 in the Assembly and 62-1 in the Senate.

The legislation, which has yet to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, allows the state to develop specific conditions and rules under which petroleum bearing vessels may enter or move upon the navigable waters of the Hudson in order to protect the river.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth