From the editor: As Brian PJ Cronin reported in our July 15 issue, the U.S. Coast Guard is considering creating 10 overnight barge parking lots, called anchorage grounds, on the Hudson River, including in an area between Beacon and Newburgh for up to five barges. (There are presently two anchorage grounds, at Yonkers and Hyde Park; the proposal would add 43 more berths.) The Coast Guard is accepting public comments on the proposal. The deadline, which had been Sept. 7, has been extended to Dec. 7.
In a letter to the Coast Guard, the American Waterways Operators argued that current anchorage space is “woefully inadequate” and said that while the industry is willing to make accommodations, “Coast Guard policy must not be driven by aesthetics but by safe usage of the waterways.” The Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey said it anticipates increased barge traffic, and the need for more anchorage, due to the lifting in December of the 40-year ban on American crude oil exports.
Environmental groups have been organizing opposition. “This ill-conceived proposal … is a throwback to the days when rivers like the Hudson were often treated as stagnant industrial canals,” said Dave Conover, interim director at Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Michelle Smith, director of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, wrote: “It is still early in the rule-making process and comments from river communities can be very influential on how this process evolves. In particular, it is important that the Coast Guard requires a full and complete environmental review.”
As of Sept. 2, the Coast Guard had received nearly 2,500 comments. Here are some excerpts:
My mother inspired me to love the Hudson River and to appreciate its beauty.… The thought of returning our beautiful river to its former state rather than accepting stewardship for its continued progress is reprehensible.
Michael Gersh, River Pool at Beacon
The construction of anchorage sites threatens all these revitalization efforts and poses grave danger to public safety. First and foremost is the very real possibility of oil spills; well known to be all but irrecoverable, such spills devastate wildlife and otherwise poison water it has taken generations to clean. River towns along the Hudson are serviced by volunteer emergency crews, not full-time first responders. If and when an accident occurs, there is very little support to manage the catastrophic impact these spills can have.
We do not want the boats parked in Beacon or anywhere on the Hudson. I understand we use gas and it sounds like we are a bunch of hypocrites, but the river does not filter this stuff and it’s not worth the risk. We should not make it easy to do business in fossil fuel. The future of oil is the same as cigarettes and the music industry and we will succeed in blocking the oil economy until these dirty companies buy into clean energy.
James Malchow, Beacon Sloop Club
While touting increased vessel safety for the commercial operators … the proposed … anchorage zones will undoubtedly compromise and come at the expense of the safety of the recreational boating public.
The Hudson River valley is an amazing recovery story. We went from a polluted, industrialized area, to a beautiful, scenic destination. This is thanks to the tireless efforts of many, over decades…. I live in Beacon, a city people once avoided. Now it’s a tourism destination. Newburgh, Peekskill and Kingston are among the river cities that are also seeing revitalization. Having loud, bright and potentially dangerous barges in these areas would not only disrupt the natural beauty, but it would keep people away, hurting jobs and lowering property values….
Two endangered species, shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon, live in the Hudson…. The negative impacts to sturgeon may not be the same for all anchorage grounds. So it is clear that before any additional anchorage grounds are approved, research must determine to what degree anchor scarring damages sturgeon habitat.
Other than perhaps under both sides of the George Washington Bridge [and other bridges such as the Tappan Zee and Newburgh-Beacon], leave the formerly nasty Hudson alone.
I live in Beacon, just across the river from a proposed anchorage site. Sharing a city with the late Pete Seeger has embued me with a deep and abiding appreciation for our beautiful, historic Hudson River. We celebrate and gather as a community around the river. Our children swim there. These bright, noisy barges will disrupt our views and our peace. They will have a negative impact on our economy, as tourism here is driven by the scenery as well as our Main Street. Dennings Point, a Hudson Highlands park, is a breeding site for our national symbol, the bald eagle. Hikers are not even permitted on this path during mating season for fear of disturbing the birds and threatening the population — and there’s a possibility that there will be barges parked there?
I’ve enclosed a picture of my children and their grandmother enjoying Dennings Point just this afternoon. My seven-year-old daughter carries a bag on her arm to collect litter whenever we hike the trail, because she wants to leave our special place better than when we found it every time we go. She knows what matters. Please show her that you do, too.
The fact that industrial barges are in motion and not parked makes the mix of natural public resource and industry work together. Parking barges would alter this balance and starts to tip the balance into all that comes with entrenched industry. Cold Spring has a Superfund site, which many people do not realize, from when heavy industry was allowed to run rampant. Let’s not do that again.