US Coast Guard suspends Hudson River anchorages proposal

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended action on a shipping industry request for 10 new anchorage grounds on the Hudson River after reviewing more than 10,000 comments, many from riverside residents, politicians and environmental groups who said it would turn the river into a parking lot for oil barges.

Rear Adm. Steven Poulin of the Coast Guard's New York district said Wednesday he has suspended "future rulemaking decisions" on plans for 43 new anchorages at 10 sites along a 70-mile (113-kilometer) stretch of the river from Yonkers to Kingston. Instead, he said, a formal risk evaluation process will be undertaken, starting with a two-day workshop in the fall involving waterway stakeholders and agencies.

Shipping industry officials asked the Coast Guard to officially designate the new anchorage sites, saying safe places to anchor are needed when vessels must wait for weather improvement, icebreaking or other voyage factors.

The industry request was made after riverside residents complained to the Coast Guard that oil barges were being illegally anchored at the sites as shipping traffic surged with production of North Dakota crude heading to East Coast refineries several years ago. Environmental groups said the crude oil shipments posed a threat to drinking water, riverfront development and the river's ecology if there was a spill.

"If the anchorages proposal is killed, the Hudson River will be spared from impacts to half a dozen drinking water intakes that are in close proximity to the proposed anchorage sites," said Andy Bicking, director of public policy for the environmental group Scenic Hudson.

Some opponents cited risks for recreational boaters, spoiled river views with barges anchored offshore from riverfront parks, and noise and light pollution from barges parked overnight.

John Lipscomb of the environmental group Riverkeeper said it's essential that the public is involved in the formal risk evaluation now being undertaken.

"This decision by the Coast Guard does not necessarily mean that the anchorages will not one day be authorized," Lipscomb said.