By Rick Pezzullo—
The U.S. Coast Guard’s decision this week not to allow barges to anchor anywhere north of the Governor M. Cuomo Bridge is being widely applauded by elected and environmental leaders.
The Coast Guard was looking at redefining the Port of New York that would have cleared the way for barges carrying dangerous materials such as oil to anchor in the Hudson River.
“For years now, Westchester County strongly opposed this proposal due to its potential impact on the Hudson River’s natural beauty, the potential impact on our scenic rivertowns lining the Hudson’s banks and the fear of environmental degradation after years of dedicated efforts to clean up the river,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “Our community values the Hudson River as a cherished resource, and this decision is a testament to the power of collective advocacy.”
In 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to permanently ban the establishment of new oil barge anchorages on the lower Hudson River. The Senate followed suit in 2021.
“Riverkeeper and the public have made clear that we want strict limits on where, and for how long, large commercial vessels are allowed to anchor in the Hudson River. The ability to anchor virtually anywhere increases the risk of spills of petroleum and other hazardous cargo, undermines local revitalization efforts, and threatens to disrupt essential habitat for endangered sturgeon and other aquatic life,” said John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President of Advocacy. “A serious spill could render over 100,000 people without clean water. It’s critical to protect aquatic life, critical habitat areas, and Hudson River drinking water supplies from these new risks.”
This week, Congressmen Pat Ryan (D) and Marc Molinaro (R), a former Dutchess County Executive, introduced the Hudson River Protection Act to that would amend the 2020 Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act, removing any uncertainty related to geographic definitions, such as the Port of New York, and permanently banning additional anchorages.
“This legislation will stop big corporations from turning our Hudson River into a parking lot for dangerous barges once and for all,” Ryan said. “These dangerous barges threaten the health and safety of our kids, the more than 100,000 people who rely on the river for their drinking water, and our entire ecosystem. We must continue to stand up with one voice to fight for our river.”
“We will not sit on the sidelines and watch corporate interests jeopardize the Hudson River, its drinking water, and ecosystem,” said Molinaro. “Some issues, like protecting the Hudson River, are bigger than politics and demand a unified, bipartisan front.”
State Senator Pete Harckham (D/South Salem) said the economic and environmental value of the Hudson to the region cannot be threatened.
“It’s because of our collective advocacy that the U.S. Coast Guard has decided not to use our treasured Hudson River as a parking lot for large vessels,” he said. “Let’s hope this ridiculous idea is squashed for good this time.”
The Marine Safety Information Bulletin released by the Coast Guard in July changed the scope of the Port of New York, which encompasses the waters of the Hudson River from New York Harbor to Albany. The redefined geographic scope of the port now only included the waters from the Statue of Liberty to the Cuomo Bridge but also covered the navigable parts of the river from Tarrytown to Albany.
In 2018, the Coast Guard put forth a plan to allow anchoring on the Hudson from the Port of New York to Albany, but near unanimous and vociferous opposition from lawmakers and environmental advocates effectively killed the idea.
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