Coast Guard suspends, but doesn’t kill, plan for Hudson River anchorage grounds

The tanker Afrodite is shown in an undated photo. John Lipscomb of Riverkeeper says the Afrodite carries 8 million gallons of crude oil on the Hudson River once every eight to 10 days.
The tanker Afrodite is shown in an undated photo. John Lipscomb of Riverkeeper says the Afrodite carries 8 million gallons of crude oil on the Hudson River once every eight to 10 days. Provided/File

The U.S. Coast Guard has shelved, but not outright killed, its controversial plan to create 10 anchorage grounds for large vessels on the Hudson River between Kingston and Yonkers.

“The anchorages proposal has been suspended because, after analyzing and reviewing the more than 10,000 comments that were received, it was brought to our attention that there’s a lot that we really don’t know about the Hudson River that we have to study before we make any sort of permanent decision,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Allyson Conroy said Wednesday.

Conroy, a chief warrant officer, said safety assessments and invitation-only workshops relative to the river will be conducted by the Coast Guard this fall.

“That will bring people to the table, [including] the industry people who use the Hudson River, people who use it recreationally and environmental stakeholders,” she said. “That way, we can have a better idea what is needed and maybe what is not needed.”

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that said Coast Guard Adm. Steven D. Poulin was “effectively killing the proposal” by announcing he would “‘suspend future rulemaking decisions’ regarding the designation of additional anchorage sites in the Hudson River.” Conroy, though, said the Coast Guard rather was taking more time to assess the plan, especially in light of the volume of comments it received from opponents.

A statement issued by the Coast Guard late Wednesday said Poulin “has suspended future rulemaking decisions and directed a formal risk identification and evaluation of the Hudson River, known as a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA)… 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.”

Poulin, in a separate statement, said: “… The PAWSA is not a substitute for the rulemaking process. The results of the PAWSA will help us determine what the next steps might be, after a more comprehensive assessment of risks. Any subsequent rulemaking regarding maritime commerce on the Hudson River will continue to be conducted through a transparent process of public notice and comment.”

Maloney, in a conference call later Wednesday, stood by his characterization of the anchorage proposal being dead despite the Coast Guard not going that far in its statements.

“What I’m telling you is that they would not have suspended the future rulemaking unless they intended to move in a different direction,” the congressman said. “This proposal is effectively dead.”

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said in an email to the media that it was a “wise choice by the U.S. Coast Guard to shelve the decision to create additional anchorages along the Hudson River and instead to solicit wide input on river safety.”

“While the proposal is not completely dead, our office will continue to work with local leaders, environmental groups and concerned citizens to protect and preserve the Hudson River’s majestic beauty for future generations,” said Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader of the U.S. Senate.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said the Coast Guard’s decision “is a major victory for the people, communities and businesses whose health, safety and prosperity depend on our region’s greatest resource — the Hudson River.”

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a vocal opponent of the anchorage plan, said he was “grateful to the many people and voices that came together and again protected this iconic view and majestic river….”

The shipping industry has said the anchorage sites are needed to create safe places for ships to stop and crews to rest. The sites were proposed by the Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey Tug and Barge Committee, the Hudson River Port Pilots Association and the American Waterways Operators.

Three of the proposed sites are between Dutchess County and Ulster County. The northernmost, the Kingston Flats South Anchorage Ground, would be in front of the Rhinebeck shoreline. That anchorage ground would encompass 279 acres and accommodate up to three vessels for long-term use. It would be directly across from the river from Kingston Point Beach.

The two other area sites would be along the town of Esopus shoreline. A Port Ewen site would cover about 50 acres for one vessel, while the Big Rock Point site, immediately south of Port Ewen, would cover about 210 acres for up to four vessels.

The plan has drawn significant criticism from elected officials and environmental groups up and down the Hudson River, including Molinaro, Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, the Ulster County Legislature, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, the Kingston Common Council and supervisors of towns on both sides of the river.

Opponents say they fear the river will become a parking lot for commercial vessels waiting their turn at the Port of Albany and that the number of vessels carrying Bakken crude along the river could increase significantly, creating a potential hazard.

The state Legislature last week approved a bipartisan measure to give New York additional say over large-vessel anchorage locations on the Hudson.

Groups and individuals that would like to be considered for participation in the Coast Guard’s workshops this fall should email a request to HudsonRiverPAWSA@uscg.mil by July 21 and include their name, contact information, connection to the Hudson River, experience and related skills

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