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Proposal for anchorages incites opposition

By Kris DiLorenzo
TIM LAMORTE/RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE

A tugboat and barge anchored across from southwest Yonkers on Aug. 17.

 

REGION — The maritime industry’s proposal to establish 10 new federally designated anchorage grounds on the Hudson River between Yonkers and Kingston has stirred opposition from residents, politicians, and environmental organizations.

Those 10 areas would constitute 43 berths, including 16 off of Yonkers, Hastings, and Dobbs Ferry — three municipalities that have invested in improving their waterfronts. For elected officials of those communities, anchoring tugboats and barges 490 yards from the western shoreline and 470 yards from the eastern shoreline would partially negate that investment.

One major objection is that the barges would carry crude oil, which could poison the river’s ecosystem in the event of a spill. In addition, there are concerns about anchors and chains dragging along the riverbed.

On Aug. 9, the Dobbs Ferry Village Board passed a resolution rejecting the proposal, which was made by the Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey Tug and Barge Committee and the American Waterways Operators. The U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether to approve the anchorages.

The Dobbs Ferry resolution details potential environmental impacts, improprieties in notifying all concerned parties, and the dangers posed by vessels ranging in size from 300 to 600 feet scattered over the 715-acre area called the Yonkers Extension.

The resolution states that the only notification the Village received about the proposal was not from the Coast Guard, but through an item published in the Federal Register, the government’s daily journal.

Dobbs Ferry Mayor Hartley Connett told those who attended the board meeting last Tuesday that the mayors and village boards of Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, and Irvington are conferring about the issue, and considering retaining a lobbyist, in conjunction with the City of Yonkers.

“We will tap into any and all resources we can to oppose this law,” he stated. Dobbs Ferry officials also requested that state and federal representatives oppose the anchorage plan.

The Irvington Village Board passed a similar resolution at their meeting on Aug. 15. The Hastings Village Board is slated to do the same on Aug. 23.

Mayor Peter Swiderski of Hastings told the Enterprise that the Hastings board would take their cue from Riverkeeper, the 50-year-old nonprofit dedicated to protecting the river and its tributaries. Riverkeeper is urging the Coast Guard to hold public hearings on the proposal and to provide an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In an Aug. 16 e-mail blast, Swiderski called the proposal “a pernicious idea on any number of levels, from disruption of views, to impact on the river bottom and sea life, to impact on watercraft seeking to navigate the Hudson.”

Swiderski also mentioned a “significant safety issue” related to British Petroleum’s (BP) approaching cleanup of the contaminated waterfront site formerly occupied by the Anaconda Wire & Cable Co. He wrote that “remediation of the river bottom by BP along the waterfront will commence in a year or two and will involve its own heavy equipment located in the river. This introduces a real risk of collisions and fuel oil spills that would befoul the very waters and shoreline we are seeking to finally have cleaned.”

One argument being made in support of the new anchorages is that the commercial vessels in question need a safe place to wait during storms or ice floes.

“It’s not going to be used just because of bad weather,” Irvington Mayor Brian Smith told the Enterprise. “That’s what they’re selling it as, but that’s not the way it will be used. The thing that makes me most angry is that they’re being disingenuous about it. There will be long-term parking there while they’re waiting for oil prices to move.”

Mayor Mike Spano of Yonkers, Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, and U.S. Congresswoman Nita Lowey also expressed concerns about the proposal.

In an Aug. 10 letter to Rear Admiral Linda Fagan, commander of the First Coast Guard District, Lowey cited the possibility of accidents between recreational boaters and barges, and homeland security issues. One of the proposed anchorage grounds is for three berths off Montrose Point, south of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Northern Westchester. Lowey urged the commander to hold public hearings in the Hudson Valley.

“The proposed anchorage sites also raise security and safety concerns,” she wrote. “Indian Point Energy Center operates two nuclear plants that sit on the Hudson River in Buchanan. Spectra Energy Partners is expanding its natural gas pipeline, which runs under the Hudson River, just south of Indian Point. Champlain Hudson Power Express is in the permitting process for constructing a high-voltage transmission line from the U.S.-Canada border to New York City along the Hudson River. The proposed anchorage sites could be used to observe, violate, or even attack Indian Point.”

On Aug. 11, Feiner sent an e-mail blast that read: “Although unincorporated Greenburgh does not border the Hudson River, villages within the Town of Greenburgh do. The proposed anchorage sites at Kingston, Port Ewen, Big Rock Point, Roseton, Milton, Marlboro, Newburgh, Tomkins Cove, Montrose, and Yonkers will absolutely be detrimental to the riverfront revitalization efforts, health of the river, and recreation for all of our residents in the Hudson Valley. There are navigational hazards, environmental problems, and homeland security issues.”

Feiner urged town residents to register their opinions on a government website that is accepting comments until Sept. 7. To post a comment, visit www.regulations.gov and enter docket number USCG-2016-0132-0001.

Meanwhile, Historic Hudson River Towns, a consortium of municipalities from Yonkers to Albany, has alerted relevant organizations and officials in the region about the maritime industry's initiative. The consortium's e-mail was the first notification Irvington officials received about the proposal.

State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, who represents Greenburgh, expressed his viewpoint succinctly in an Aug. 11 tweet: “We don't need anchorages, more barges or more oil transported on the Hudson River.”


Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


 

August 19, 2016

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