Ryan Demands Coast Guard Uphold Anchoring Ban

Congressman Pat Ryan is raising the alarm that dangerous barges carrying oil, asphalt, and other hazardous materials might once again be allowed to park indefinitely virtually anywhere on the Hudson River, threatening the health and safety of our kids, our water (including the more than 100,000 residents of the “Hudson 7” who rely on the river for their drinking water), and our entire ecosystem. After a recent administrative change to the definition of the Port of New York, Ryan pushed the Coast Guard for answers; after finally receiving a response that left the door open to barges lining the Hudson, Ryan is demanding the Coast Guard uphold the Hudson River anchoring ban.

“This would turn the Hudson River into a parking lot for dangerous oil barges, threatening 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. I’m demanding the Coast Guard uphold the anchoring ban on the Hudson,” said Congressman Pat Ryan. “Just a few years ago, a coalition led by local community leaders and nonprofits like Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson banded together to protect our River from big corporations who were putting their profits ahead of our health and safety. We must once again stand up with one voice to fight for our River.”

“Communities in our region have made their voices clear: the Hudson River is a cherished natural resource whose protection is vital to the environment and economy of the region,” said Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson. “The U.S. Coast Guard’s plan to open its waters to unrestricted anchoring is an end-run around federal law and prior restrictions adopted through a consensus process led by the Coast Guard itself. The plan threatens to undermine decades of work to sustain and enhance the river’s beauty and health for future generations. That’s why we stand with Congressman Ryan in calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to uphold the ban on anchoring.”

“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. 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,” said John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President of Advocacy. “We’re counting on the Coast Guard to listen to the public again, withdraw its unlawful action, and ensure that all impacts to safety, ecology and drinking water are properly examined.”

“The Hudson 7 is an intermunicipal council of seven mid-Hudson municipalities that draw drinking water from the Hudson River for over 100,000 people in Ulster and Dutchess Counties. We have significant concerns with new anchorage locations in our watershed that could impact our drinking water intakes and critical habitat areas,” said Gary Bassett, Mayor of the Village of Rhinebeck and Chair of the Hudson 7. “We want restrictions to limit any risk of accidents and spills of hazardous products in the reach of our intakes that could imperil our water supply. With reserves of drinking water that last only 1-3 days, it is imperative that we maintain a safe and reliable drinking water supply.”

On August 4th, Congressman Ryan wrote a letter to Captain Zeita Merchant, the Sector New York Commander for the Coast Guard, requesting answers to the following questions:

* How did the Coast Guard decide to redefine the boundaries of the Port of New York?

* What are you doing to solicit feedback from the public on this proposed change?

* How does this new definition fit into a broader responsibility to regulate anchoring in the Hudson in a way that protects navigational safety for commercial vessels, the interests of other waterway users, and the environment?

* How is the U.S. Coast Guard working in collaboration with local government and non-governmental organizations to ensure that its activities in the region support the abundant and highly-prized natural resources in the River and create a safe environment for all users of the river?

* Should the boundaries of the Port of New York be changed permanently, what changes to commercial vessel anchorages along the Hudson, including additional anchorages, does the Coast Guard anticipate?

After a more than two month delay, Michael Emerson, the Director of Marine Transportation Systems, provided a woefully insufficient response that left the door open for dangerous oil barges to line the Hudson.

These dangerous barges often carry oil, asphalt, and other hazardous materials, which pollute the river with their noisy generators and “stadium” lighting. The Hudson River has seen significant efforts to restore the habitats of endangered fish species which could be jeopardized by barge anchors dragging along the River bottom. Recreational boaters would be put at risk by increased commercial traffic and of greatest concern, more oil barges on the Hudson will increase the risks of a catastrophic spill. This is especially concerning to the Hudson 7, a collaboration of the mid-Hudson municipalities representing more than 100,000 people that draw their drinking water from the Hudson River.

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