When city cuts out salt, will gravel go next?

HUDSON–An agreement between the City of Hudson and Cargill, Inc. will end the use of Hudson’s waterfront as a salt storage depot.

The deal was praised by city officials and activists for reducing truck traffic through city neighborhoods, but one activist questioned why the city has not exercised its powers to also reduce stop trucks from hauling gravel to the waterfront.

Cargill, the multinational food and agricultural company that is a major supplier of salt, leases space alongside the deep water port on the western edge of the old South Bay. The company trucks in salt and then distributes it by truck throughout the region for use on winter roads. This winter, the city reexamined a conditional use permit in place since 1996 and confirmed that that while bringing salt to the site by barge is allowed, trucking it in and out is not.

Cargill has agreed to remove all salt it stores outdoors under tarps by May 2011 and all salt stored along the in an adjacent warehouse owned by the cement company Holcim by May 2012. The gradual removal over a year and a half will lead to less concentrated truck traffic and reduce the stress that traffic places on the city, said Common Council President Don Moore in a phone interview Tuesday.

“It’s one of the major pieces of establishing a waterfront that is less populated with trucks. It will open up the view of the river. It’s a lot better for the environment of the bay to have all that salt out of there. This is a step that will help us build a better future for the waterfront,” said Mr. Moore.

“We were happy that Cargill, once they understood they were in violation, realized they could agree to our demands or appeal through the court system. They took the path of least resistance and decided to agree and ask for ample time…. I think everybody’s satisfied with the agreement,” said Hudson Mayor Rick Scalera.

“Truck traffic was creating havoc in our neighborhoods, with trucks carrying aggregate and salt. We looked at the agreement. It said that they were permitted to ship by barge only. Once they established they were no longer going to ship, they were in violation. They chose to end all salt storage and trucking,” he said.

The company stopped shipping salt by barge two years ago. The mayor estimates that the change should eliminate roughly 50% of the trucks traveling through Hudson, but it will be two years before Hudson residents notice the difference

“We’re doing our best through the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan) process to get them off the street and to the port through the South Bay,” said Mayor Scalera. “We don’t want to stop work; we feel commerce is important. It could end up being quite an economic development tool, if we could use it too, to ship products in and out of the city.”

Heavy truck traffic through the city of Hudson increased dramatically during the years since 2005, when St. Lawrence Cement, a subsidiary of Holcim, lost its bid to build a huge new plant in Greenport and Hudson. Residents say the trucks have created noise, dust, and vibration problems, and frequently traveled at night and early in the morning, lowering the quality of life in the city.

One person regrets the new arrangement is Bernard Kelleher, Director of Highways for the Columbia County Department of Public Works.

“We purchase our salt from Cargill under state contract, and quite a bit of it does come from Hudson. I am sorry to hear that it will be no longer. When we get back-to-back storms, it is difficult for them to keep our orders filled,” he said, because the salt must be trucked from the western part of the state.

Sam Pratt, who was head of the group Friends of Hudson when it successfully fought the St. Lawrence Cement proposal, supports the new deal with Cargill. But he says it raises the question of why the city has not also forced a definite end trucks hauling gravel from Holcim’s quarry on Newman Roard in Greenport to the waterfront. The company hauling the material is a construction large construction firm from Connecticut called O&G Industries.

“The City already has many tools for stopping, limiting, re-routing, and otherwise controlling truck traffic,” Mr. Pratt said in a statement emailed to The Columbia PaperTuesday, January 18. “Why is the city only using such tools to reign in Cargill, and not Holcim and O&G?”

Mr. Pratt and the organization The Valley Alliance take issue with the mayor’s proposal for a heavy truck roadway through the South Bay, believing that neither that alternative nor continued use of city streets is “legal or acceptable.”

In his email, Mr. Pratt wrote, “The City could shut down all of that truck traffic, not just the salt deliveries. And it should stop — today, not in 2012, or 2013, or much farther down the line.” 


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