Thursday, November 12, 2015

Public Comment Period Ends Today

On October 21, A. Colarusso & Son, the new owners of the land in South Bay and along the Hudson River that was formerly the property of Holcim, a.k.a. St. Lawrence Cement, submitted an application to the Department of Environmental Conservation "to stabilize approximately 170 feet of eroded Hudson River shoreline with large rock rip-rap" and "to replace approximately 75 feet of deteriorated concrete bulkhead within a lateral side berth with new steel bulkhead that will placed in the same location as the existing structure." 

The proposal seems like reasonable maintenance and repair, but the ever-vigilant South Bay Task Force took a closer look at the proposal and concluded that it is actually for two projects, both of which are problematic. The following is from a published statement by the South Bay Task Force.
The first proposal at the Hudson waterfront would "stabilize" a shore of the river, which sounds reasonable where erosion is a threat to business. But it turns out that the erosion at the dock isn't much of a threat, while the remedy for the specious threat is a gigantic stone revetment to stretch 170 feet down the shore. Such structures can be used for additional moorings, where barges can be stacked and at the ready for an intensification of aggregate shipping.
As for the erosion, our research shows very little erosion since the State mapped that stretch in 1934. Years of GoogleEarth images provide enough recent evidence to make the rest of that argument.
Frankly, we don't know what the company is doing in this instance, nor why it thinks it needs this giant structure. However, we do know that we have a right to know.
Our right to know makes a quantum leap at the next discovery (which is actually a century-old discovery), that 100 percent of the revetment project would take place on State-owned lands!
That's not why the State is sponsoring the comment period, though, because the DEC only knows what the company has claimed, that the land is privately owned.
Well, it is State land, which is easy enough to prove if we can just get the State to look into the matter. . . .
Courtesy South Bay Task Force
The second project also seems reasonable--at least on the face of it. 
At the north corner of the wharf, a steel bulkhead which mostly faces the river takes a turn down a little inlet, or slip. After about 40 feet, a failing concrete-and-wood wall continues for another 77 feet. Admittedly, that wall is in a sorry state. But where the sponsor's site plan is very specific about all the site features in and around the broken wall, the plan reports that the 77-foot span is 220 feet! How did an engineer make a mistake like that?
It's worth noting that 220 feet is the exact length of the entire slip from the end of the steel bulkhead, where the work would begin, to the high tide mark on the small beach at the furthest eastern end of the slip.
You have to wonder if this corporation is trying to fool the government by seeking permission for the measurement alone, anticipating that it can then dismiss the other details of the plan which contradict it.
We'd be fools not to be very skeptical, because a steel bulkhead all the way down the slip would be a very big deal. Plus, what would it portend? What is the corporation's long-term plan for all these changes?
Courtesy South Bay Task Force
The natural shore that's formed at the back end of the slip is directly opposite our waterfront park. If some future generation wishes to develop that area of parkland, they'll be looking at a massive steel wall instead of what it is now, a rustic shoreline.
And we still don't know the reason for any of it, nor the scale of operations the company is planning.
It's astounding to consider, but we're looking at the same confusing plans as the Army Corps of Engineers and the DEC, which means that the permitters themselves don't know the nature and the extent of this project. . . . 
There are so many things which only locals can know, which is why public comment periods are so necessary. They are also inherently just, considering the inordinate power of giant special interests which can afford teams of lawyers and engineers.
At the informal Common Council meeting on Monday, November 9, the question was asked if the Council intended to make a comment during the public comment period on behalf of the residents of Hudson. Council president Don Moore noted that the review of the proposed project was now taking place at the state level, with the DEC, and explained that, since an LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program) Consistency Review Board has never been established (our LWRP being in limbo for the past four years), the Planning Board would be the agency of city government that would have jurisdiction in the matter. When it was suggested that the City's Conservation Advisory Council investigate the project, Moore protested that the CAC is "very new, and time is very limited."

Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) contended that the ownership issue should be looked into. "Why not ask the CAC to help us?" he asked Moore. Friedman argued that the land use issue was secondary to the ownership issue and suggested that the city attorney and the CAC be asked to explore the issue, and the Common Council could compare their answers. City attorney Carl Whitbeck agreed to do this but cautioned that ownership would have to be settled by a court not by an opinion.

To make the situation and the City's role in the process so far even more puzzling, a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers, making reference to a permit application from A. Colarusso & Son filed with the ACE on August 4, 2015, was presented as a communication to the aldermen and the press on Monday. (A stamp on the letter indicated that the letter had been received by the city clerk on September 14, 2015.) The letter, which can be read in its entirety hererequests more information about the project, including "an assessment of the project's effects on the federal endangered Shortnose sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon, and Essential Fish Habitat protected under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act." It also notes:
A review of the GIS resources map on the N.Y.S. Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (SHPO) website shows that the project site is located within areas identified by the SHPO as "Archeo Sensitive Areas." Please indicate whether any sites eligible for listing the in the National Register of Historic Places exist in the vicinity of the proposed project site, and provide evidence of any coordination with the SHPO on the potential presence of historic sites.
The letter requests that the requested information be provided within thirty days, but it is not known if it was or not. The DEC application for the project, however, asserts: "Cultural resource lists and maps have been checked. The proposed activity is not in an area of identified archaeological sensitivity and no known registered, eligible, or inventoried archaeological sites or historic structures were identified or documented for the project location. No further review in accordance of SHPA (State Historic Preservation Act) is required."

The DEC public comment on this project ends today. Direct your comments to Patricia Gabriel at the Department of Environmental Conservation  


  1. In its public comment, the Task Force led readers on a walk through the State's underwater grants in South Bay in the years 1855, 1849, 1839, and 1836.

    After making transcripts, we inserted bracketed numbers throughout the text of these laws, to correspond to the same numbers inserted on the boundaries and measurements of the State's official Water Index Map.

    In this way, someone can read this insanely boring description of a geometry problem while following it all on the official illustration: OGS Map no. 12.

    "... thence southerly along the channel of the river to a point five hundred feet from the north line of lands heretofore granted to John L. Graham; thence easterly on a line parallel with the north line of said Graham grant, two hundred and fifty-feet; thence northerly on a line at right angles sixty-feet; thence easterly on a line at right angles, to the first location of the Hudson River railroad; thence northerly along the line of said location so far as to intersect the north line of lands conveyed by said Hudson and Berkshire railroad company, to said Hudson Iron company, and thence westerly on that line ..."

    It was worth the effort. There's no way in hell that anyone but the State owns the land under the wharf.

    (This means that the State owns every inch of the giant cement hopper. The company's claim is that the State owns only a quarter of it.)

  2. In the most corrupt state, all is for the corrupt.

    Federalism leaves the task force at the mercy of corrupt politicians as they place yet another brick in the south bay.

    Federal Navigational Servitude places ownership of all land beneath navigable waters in the hands of the people of the state not their corrupt leaders.

    Unless you're in federal court, petitioning the state is the same as petitioning Colarosso.

  3. In the most corrupt state, all is for the corrupt.

    Federalism leaves the task force at the mercy of corrupt politicians as they place yet another brick in the south bay.

    Federal Navigational Servitude places ownership of all land beneath navigable waters in the hands of the people of the state not their corrupt leaders.

    Unless you're in federal court, petitioning the state is the same as petitioning Colarosso.

  4. Is there any known outcome? I imagine construction will commence silently (although I'm sure it will make a heck of a racket)