GERMANTOWN—Scenic Hudson and the Germantown Town Board both recently announced they oppose plans to construct a mooring for barges along the Hudson River in the town.
Nearly an acre in size, the proposed anchorage would accommodate up to six large barges—empty vessels to be filled with aggregate (loose sand and gravel) at quarry docks in Catskill and Hudson, or full ones awaiting transport, according to a press release from Scenic Hudson on November 3. Scenic Hudson is an organization that preserves land and farms and creates parks that connect people with the Hudson, while fighting threats to the river and natural resources that are the foundation of the valley’s prosperity.
Riverkeeper, a clean water advocate group, was quoted in the Times Union in September saying, “It is very clear that for us to protect the river, shoreline residents and communities as partners are essential. We cannot serve the river without the relationships that have taken all these years to build, and so… we cannot support the mooring in the face of apparent virtually universal local opposition.”
Comments submitted by Scenic Hudson to the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) called attention to the mooring’s visual impact from Olana State Historic Site, a tourist destination that contributes $9.3 million annually to the regional economy and supports 210 jobs. The comments state that “The view from Olana’s front porch, a place frequented by many visitors, includes the Hudson River, as well as a direct view of the proposed barge mooring site,” which would be a “discordant element… and could be present for extended periods of time.”
“In light of these impacts and the overwhelming opposition to the proposal from Germantown residents, whose riverfront park is very close to the mooring site, Scenic Hudson has recommended consideration of an alternative location — the large dock at the former Atlas Cement plant, about 1.3 miles south of the quarry jetty in Catskill,” according to the press release.
The permit application made by New York State Marine Highway Transportation, LLC, (MHT) a tug and barge operation out of Troy, said that the docks at the quarries at Peckham in Catskill and Colarusso in Hudson are “narrow sections of the river immediately adjacent to the Navigation Channel. The proximity to the nav-channel does not afford a safe berth for multiple barges.” So the new mooring would provide a “lay-berth for barges while waiting for berth availability at the quarry’s loading facility.”
The application also said that barges normally switch out within 12 hours or less. Also the mooring will be installed and removed seasonally, depending on when the river freezes and thaws. The standard barges would measure 35-foot-wide by 200-foot-long, or 52-foot-wide by 250-foot-long, and the barge configuration would be a maximum of three abreast.
Scenic Hudson also has requested that the ACOE conduct a public hearing in Germantown so residents can express concerns and have questions answered directly, and urged it to undertake a Section 106 Historic Review, which evaluates the effects of federal or federally assisted projects on historic properties, as well as a visual analysis.
The Town Board also discussed asking for a public hearing at a special meeting in late September.
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, in the release, “Scenic Hudson helped lead the successful campaign to prevent 10 new barge anchorages from destroying iconic views and increasing the potential for pollution in the lower Hudson River. The proposed mooring offshore Germantown makes no sense in light of an existing alternative that would meet the needs of local quarrying businesses, preserve Olana’s revenue-generating views, and stop the town’s riverfront from becoming an industrial parking lot.”
On November 9, the Germantown Board passed a resolution saying that if the mooring goes in it “may interfere with boating associated with the New York State Boating Launch at Lasher Park, may delay or complicate first responders’ marine responses and training” at the park as well as cause bank erosion. They also said it’s in conflict with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and “will complicate efforts of the committee that is developing our Local Waterfront Revitalization and its Harbor Management Plan.”
The board said in the resolution that they support both Riverkeeper’s and Scenic Hudson’s opposition to the plan.
Of the tug boat company, the board says, “the applicant has not produced any studies or documents that show what alternative solutions were investigated, has not produced any study that shows conclusive need for the mooring, and has not produced a study demonstrating that the mooring’s operation is compatible with safety, boating and bank stability at Lasher Park.”
The motion, which received “Aye” votes from all board members, concludes by saying that the Town Board “on behalf of our community members and in accordance with the town’s interests, does respectfully ask the ACOE to reject MHT’s application for a mooring permit.” It also says that if the permit is granted, that the ACOE should limit it to a period of five years.
Information on the mooring is at the Germantown website at germantownny.org
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email