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Scenic Hudson asks Homeland Security to sink anchorages

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An environmental group has asked the Department of Homeland Security to stop a proposal to create anchorages on the Hudson River before Donald Trump becomes president.

Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson Inc., cited security concerns in a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. The letter is dated Nov. 21 but released to the news media on Dec. 20.

Maritime interests have asked the U.S. Coast Guard, an agency of Homeland Security, to establish 10 anchorages for 43 vessels, from Yonkers to Kingston.

The Coast Guard has logged more than 10,000 public comments on an advanced notice of public rulemaking.

An advanced notice is not an actual proposed rule, Sullivan said in a phone interview, so he believes Johnson has the authority to direct the Coast Guard to stop the process.

He said Homeland Security has not responded to the letter, and a Coast Guard spokeswoman said she was unaware of any directive from the agency concerning the rulemaking process.

“Right now, we are continuing the normal process of analyzing all comments that have come in,” Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy said.

The Maritime Association of the Port of New York / New Jersey is one of the industry organizations asking for the anchorages. Edward Kelly, executive director, says barges and ships need places to stay during emergencies and bad weather, and the proposed anchorages are in places that have been customarily used over the years but need to be made official.

Kelly says water transport is the cleanest, safest, most economical way to move goods. He has called suspicions that the anchorages would be used as free warehousing until oil can be sold at higher prices, “harebrained.”

The Scenic Hudson letter describes the anchorages as potential terrorist targets, a parking lot for oil barges, an increased risk for chemical spills, a threat to drinking water, a desecration of scenic treasures and an obstacle to ongoing riverfront development.

“My request is that you terminate the process before the formal rulemaking continues,” the letter says, “and before the transfer of power to a new administration.”

The public has been overwhelmingly opposed to the anchorages, Sullivan noted in a phone interview, and that includes businesses, environmental groups and public officials.

Scenic Hudson also has started a campaign this week to encourage other business and environmental organizations to ask Homeland Security to stop the rulemaking process.

“No issue in my 20 years of experience in the Hudson Valley has so united the region to defend the river, from environmental, public health and economic perspectives,” he said.

“Clearly, the new administration will look at it with a different perspective.”

President-elect Donald Trump has named John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, as his secretary of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is slogging through the public comments.

“It will take a while to get through 10,000 comments,” Conroy said.

“We hope to have something in early spring or summer,” she said, “if there will be an actual proposed rule or if we’re not going to move forward.”

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