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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2011

SCHUMER: IF ESOPUS CREEK’S ICE-BREAKING COAST GUARD CUTTER IS FORCED TO MOVE, HOME HEATING OIL SHIPMENTS TO KINGSTON COULD BE DELAYED & PRICES COULD SKYROCKET DURING WINTER – PUSHES ARMY CORPS TO DREDGE THE CREEK AND KEEP THE CUTTER ON THE JOB


Massive Runoff From Tropical Storms Dumped Silt in Channels, Further Endangering The Coast Guard Cutter Wire That Patrols The Hudson, Breaks Up Ice So Home Heating Oil Shipments Can Reach Kingston & Other Mid-Hudson Towns – Must Be Dredged To Keep Cutter On The Job

Last Week, Schumer Helped Pass Bill To Provide $534 Million For Projects In Areas Hit By Natural Disasters Including Irene and Lee – Schumer Pushes Army Corps To Use New Funding To Dredge Ulster’s Esopus ASAP

Schumer: Use New Emergency Federal Funding to Keep Ice-breaking Cutter On The Job And Home Heating Oil Flowing During Winter

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. Army Corps to use part of its recently-received $534 million in emergency funding to dredge the Esopus Creek so that the USCG Cutter Wire can continue to stay in New York, keeping the Hudson River open to boat traffic during the winter. Last week, Schumer successfully helped pass an appropriations bill to provide the Army Corps with funding for a variety of projects in areas that recently suffered natural disasters, including Ulster County in the wake of this summer’s tropical storms. The storms poured debris and dirt into the Esopus Creek, adding to the shoaling problem that continues to plague the creek. Each day, as the Esopus becomes more and more shallow, the cutter becomes closer to being in danger thanks to the rising creek bottom, and closer to being forced to find a new home, possibly in New Jersey. The cutter plays a critical role in ensuring that the Hudson River is passable year round, patrolling for safety, clearing debris, and cutting pathways through the ice. As winter sets in, Schumer noted that it is absolutely essential that the cutter be able to continue breaking up ice and patrolling the Hudson each winter so that large barges full of home heating oil can reach Kingston and other towns throughout the Hudson Valley.

 

“We need to make sure that the Wire stays right here in Saugerties so that it can keep the Hudson River open for business all year round,” said Schumer. “With temperatures dropping, it’s going to become even more important to make sure that ice doesn’t choke off shipments of heating oil that residents from Kingston, Westchester, and all the way up to the North Country rely upon. The Esopus keeps getting more and more shallow, putting our grasp on this key Coast Guard recess at risk. We’ve fought to secure these funds for the Army Corps, and desperately need to put them to work right here in Ulster County to keep the Wire on the job.”

 

Sediment is building up on the bottom of the creek, making it unsafe to take the Wire out of its docking location and into the Hudson. In the wake of this summer’s tropical storms, Ulster County engineers noted that the bottom of the Esopus creek had changed dramatically, with piles of sediment adding to the already shallow river bottom. Continued shoaling could force The Wire to relocate to another port, possibly in New Jersey in the future. The Wire serves a number of essential purposes, particularly during the winter months. It is involved in search and rescue missions, works with local law enforcement, and serves as a visual deterrence against illegal shipping occurring on the Hudson, according to the Coast Guard. During the winter, the cutter is one of several employed to break up ice along the Hudson River, ensuring that deliveries of petroleum, heating oil, and other products can reach their intended destinations in Kingston and further Upstate. Last winter, nearly half a billion dollars of products were shipped by the Hudson via tug or barge. If the river were to become blocked, heating oil would have to be delivered by truck, dramatically delaying delivery times and potentially adding significant costs to homeowners.

 

The CGC Wire is a sixty five foot long harbor tug that is part of the Aids to Navigation Team at Saugerties. Because the shores of the Hudson River are so shallow, the Wire is one of three CGCs that is capable of navigating its waters. In the nearly ten years since 9/11, the boat has been involved in a number of homeland security missions, executing a role that no other military service could provide. The cutter is essential to the Coast Guard’s operations in the Hudson, but its role is threatened by the rising levels of sediment in the Esopus Creek. In order to get from its port in Saugerties to the Hudson, the Wire must travel down the Esopus, but shoaling at the point where the creek meets the river is causing water levels to fall, to levels between 2.3 and 4.4 feet. These levels threaten the cutter’s safe passage, and without dredging in the near future, the cutter could be unable to travel from its home port to the river it is intended to serve.

 

The USACE has estimated that this dredging project will cost approximately $3.3 million, and has previously declined to prioritize this project despite Schumer’s request. However, thanks to passage of disaster funding legislation earlier this month, the Army Corps is set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars to complete projects in disaster areas. Last week, Schumer helped pass the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which contains $534 million for Army Corps projects in areas affected by natural disasters. Given the importance of keeping the Hudson River open for business and the fact that Ulster County was declared a disaster area in the wake of the recent tropical storms, Schumer is pushing the Army Corps to prioritize the Esopus project, and dredge as quickly as possible to keep the cutter in Saugerties for the long term.

 

December 21, 2011

 

Major General Merdith W.B. (Bo) Temple

US Army Corps of Engineers
441 G. Street, NW
Washington, DC 20314-1000

 

Dear Major General Temple:

 

It has come to my attention that lack of dredging in Esopus Creek in Saugerties, New York is posing a risk to the continued operation of the Coast Guard Cutter Wire. I urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to dredge this waterway to a sufficient depth to accommodate the Wire using emergency disaster funds recently allocated by Congress. 

 

The CGC Wire is a 65' harbor tug homeported at the Aids to Navigation Team (ANT) unit in Saugerties, NY. The Wire is vital to New York’s winter ice breaking fleet and helps keep the Hudson River open to commercial navigation. This cutter provides an invaluable service to more than twenty million people who rely on Hudson River shipping to deliver heating oil, petroleum and other essential goods. In addition, the Wire aids in search and rescue missions, works with local law enforcement and helps deter potential smuggling.

 

I am concerned by reports that shoaling at the entrance to the Esopus Creek, where the Wire is homeported, could prevent the Wire from making safe passage to and from its homeport during winter. Tropical Storms Irene and Lee likely exacerbated the problem by pouring debris and dirt into the Esopus Creek. The cutter plays a critical role in ensuring that the Hudson River is passable year round, patrolling for safety, clearing debris, and cutting pathways through the ice. As winter sets in, it is absolutely essential that the cutter be able to continue breaking up ice and patrolling the Hudson so that large barges full of home heating oil can reach Kingston and other towns throughout the Hudson Valley. For this reason, it is imperative that USACE take the necessary steps to restore the creek to a safe depth for the Wire. Congress recently passed an emergency appropriations bill which will provide USACE with $534 million in emergency funding to repair damages from natural disasters and I urge you to prioritize a portion of these funds to complete dredging at Esopus Creek.

 

Thank you for your attention to this urgent request. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington office.

 Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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