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Scenic Hudson Calls on Coast Guard to Halt Plan for New Hudson River Anchorages and Urges Public to Comment

Jay Burgess
Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740

New map highlights extensive threats offshore crude oil “parking lots” pose to public health and safety, prime environmental and economic assets

HUDSON VALLEY—Scenic Hudson has called on the U.S. Coast Guard (USGS) to halt the rulemaking process regarding new anchorage ground on the Hudson River, and it urges the public to submit public comments opposing the plan prior to the Tuesday, Dec. 6, deadline.

Scenic Hudson’s call comes on the heels of its creation of a virtual map that makes startlingly clear the dangers the Hudson River and communities along it face from the proposal to create 10 new anchorage areas with 43 berths along an approximately 80-mile stretch of the river. The anchorages would serve primarily as industrial storage areas for massive barges loaded with millions of gallons of explosive, health-threatening crude oil.

The map—which can be viewed here—highlights the extent of the threats posed by the anchorages to public health and safety, the environment and economic interests:

  • By massing volatile crude oil—up to 64 million gallons in one anchorage alone—they present prime targets for terror attacks near major population centers, including Yonkers, New York’s fourth-largest city. Two of the new anchorages lie within three miles of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.
  • Six drinking water intakes on the Hudson River could be impacted in the case of a spill from an anchored barge. Drinking water intakes in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, and Port Ewen, Ulster County, are immediately proximate to proposed anchorages, while four others are at downstream locations that spilled oil could reach within a few hours.
  • The anchorages would negatively impact views enjoyed from 248 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including many of the region’s prime historic and cultural attractions. They also could mar vistas that draw hikers to popular parks such as Scenic Hudson High Banks Preserve and Kingston Point Park in Ulster County, Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, Storm King State Park, Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park in Beacon, Bear Mountain State Park, Palisades Interstate Park and Untermyer Park in Yonkers, Westchester County. Assets like these are the foundation of the Hudson Valley’s $5.2-billion tourism economy responsible for nearly 85,000 jobs.
  • Eight of the 10 proposed anchorages are located within state-designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats. These areas contain irreplaceable aquatic habitat deemed essential to the survival of fish and wildlife populations, including federally endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon as well as many other sensitive species that must be preserved under the tenets of New York’s Coastal Management Program.
  • The anchorages also could stall ongoing economic development projects along many community riverfronts—including Kingston, Beacon, Newburgh and Yonkers—by contributing significant air, noise and light pollution. In addition, they would jeopardize strides made to provide safe access to and enjoyment of the river.

“I call on the Coast Guard to scrap the rulemaking process regarding new Hudson River anchorages and urge the public to demand an end to this proceeding by submitting public comments before December 6. Scenic Hudson’s new map shows exactly what we stand to lose by turning the Hudson River into a parking lot for barges filled with crude oil. These floating industrial storage facilities would put the Hudson, and people living along it, at greater risk than ever before. Our drinking water sources could be contaminated by spills; anchored barges near major cities and a nuclear power plant could be subject to terrorist attacks; public parkland and wetlands from Kingston to New York Harbor that buffer our communities and property from intense storms will be more vulnerable to devastating spills. Hudson Valley citizens, business and government leaders have worked too hard connecting people to our American Heritage River to see it turned into a crude oil superhighway for which we assume all the risk without receiving any benefit,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

Anchorages intended to increase shipments of crude oil

While the maritime industry claims the request for new anchorages is based on enhancing safety, the actual purpose is to accommodate higher volumes of crude oil it expects to transport now that Congress has lifted the longstanding ban on exportation. The Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey admits that “trade [of crude oil] will increase on the Hudson River significantly over the next few years with the lifting of the ban…and federally designated anchorages are key to supporting trade.” Barges are capable of carrying up to 4 million gallons of crude oil. A spill would be difficult, if not impossible, to clean up in the tidal Hudson, especially with the current lack of adequate spill-response safeguards.

The anchorages proposal has met strong opposition from environmental organizations, business groups, and dozens of public officials—mayors, county executives, and state and federal legislators. U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has submitted a bill in Congress that would prohibit the establishment of new anchorage sites for vessels carrying hazardous or flammable material within five miles of an existing Superfund site, a nuclear power plant, a site on the National Register of Historic Places or the habitat of an endangered species. Under this bill, all of the proposed Hudson River anchorages would be prohibited.

The USCG began soliciting public comments on the proposal in June. The number of comments has been so strong—over 4,000 received to date, with the vast majority expressing grave concerns about the plan—that the Coast Guard pushed back the deadline to submit opinions from Sept. 7 to Dec. 6. Comments can be made by visiting this link and clicking on the “Comment Now!” button at the top of the page.

Acclaimed filmmaker Jon Bowermaster has completed a new short documentary, Anchors Away, which vividly describes the harmful impacts the anchorages could have on the river. The film is the latest in Bowermaster’s series “The Hudson: A River at Risk,” which draws attention to the many environmental concerns facing the river. The latest film can be viewed here.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 65 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved almost 40,000 acres.