The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended a controversial proposal that would create additional anchorages for commercial shipping along the Hudson River.
In a bulletin on June 28, Rear Admiral Steven Poulin, commander of the First Coast Guard District, announced that future rule-making decisions on the anchorage plan have been put on hold. Instead, he has directed a risk identification and evaluation study of the Hudson River, known as a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment.
Poulin wrote in an editorial posted on the Regulations.gov review page that the new safety assessment was not a replacement for the rule-making process. Rather, the new review “will help us determine what the next steps might be, after a more comprehensive assessment of risks.”
Still, that was enough for the opposition to the plan to declare victory. U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, said the suspension effectively killed the proposal. In a press release he called the Hudson a “national treasure that should be preserved and protected for generations – not turned into a parking lot for commercial oil ships.”
Maritime interests asked the U.S. Coast Guard in 2016 to establish 10 anchorages that could accommodate up to 43 vessels, from Yonkers to Kingston.
The Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey backs the plan to add anchorages. The association wrote in a letter to the Coast Guard in January 2016 that the current anchorage system on the Hudson River is “dated and requires immediate attention to meet modem needs to safely support larger size and higher volumes of vessels moving up and down the river.”
But the plan did not go over well in communities along the Hudson River, who feared large barges carrying oil would camp out at the anchorages. Throughout the review process, the Coast Guard received 10,212 comments online regarding the anchorages. Of those, 9,636 were opposed to the proposal, according to a review by the Coast Guard.
The June 28 decision received bipartisan praise from elected officials. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said in a statement that while the plan isn’t completely dead, 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.”
Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino, a Republican, said the “federal government’s plan to re-industrialize the Hudson River and create a giant parking lot along its banks for tankers was a terrible idea from the start.”
Ned Sullivan, president of the environmental group Scenic Hudson, said the suspension of the rule-making process represents “a major victory for the people, communities and businesses whose health, safety and prosperity depend on our region’s greatest resource—the Hudson River.”
The new review process will seek additional comment from stakeholders and agencies to determine the safety of the waterway. The process will involve a two-day workshop in the fall and is intended 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,” according the announcement.
The Coast Guard has not yet announced the assessment’s workshop dates and locations.
Those interested in being considered for participation in the workshops are encouraged to email HudsonRiverPAWSA@uscg.mil by July 21 with name, contact information, connection to the waterway, experience and related skills.