Letter from Walt Keller, retired NYS DEC Region Four Fisheries Manager

NYS Department of State, F-2018-0060
Office of Planning, Development & Community Infrastructure
One Commerce Plaza
199 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231

21 March, 2018

To Whom It May Concern:

This is written in response to the National Raiload (sic) Passenger Corporation application, dated 12 January, 2018, for a fencing project along Amtrak’s Right of Way along the west shore of the Hudson Estuary.

My interests in this proposal relate to the fact that I was the NYS DEC Region Four Fisheries Manager for a number of years before my retirement in 1999, including that portion of the Estuary fronted by Albany, Columbia, Greene and Rensselaer Counties.  My responsibilities included access to the Estuary fisheries, environmental protection and species management of the fisheries in the Estuary and its tributaries.  The DEC has been and is still very active in providing fishermen access to the aquatic resources that we all enjoy. I am a fisherman who still fishes the Estuary for Striped Bass in the Spring, I am licensed to do so with a free but required license to fish in salt water and in the Estuary itself and a lifetime holder of a NYS Sportsman’s license allowing me to fish the the fresh waters of the State including the Estuary tributaries about the first upstream barrier impassible to fish.  Additionally I was very recently contracted by The Nature Conservancy along with about a dozen other professional resource managers and planners to help draft a HUDSON RIVER COMPREHENSIVE PLAN.  The New York Department of State was a partner in that planning process!  One aspect of that plan specifically addressed ACCESS to the Estuary.  My portion of the plan treated the fisheries.

My comments begin with the statement in the cover letter of Ms. Taccetta to Mr. Margaglio that notes that the purpose of the project ” is consistent with the States Coastal Management Policies to the maximum extent practical”.  Maybe practical for the purposes of the railroad but certainly not for the citizens of the State regarding access to or enjoyment of the Estuary as a resource.  In the same paragraph the project  specifically addressed public safety with the statement “is to keep the pedestrians and vehicles our of harms way”.

The link (columbiapaper.com2018/03/amtrak-wants-a-wall), March 15, 2018 article by Debby Mayer in The Columbia Paper provides a quote from  Mr. Kaare Christian  saying “If you ask me, Amtrak needs to make reliable, safe grade crossings.  No one’s been hurt along the right of way, but I call about three times a year when  the gate is failing at Lasher Park.  I live right next to it; you can see it malfunction, and there’s an 800 number to call.”  The AMTRAK proposal certainly needs to identify the public safety issues that it proposes to eliminate with gates and fencing, that by referencing specific past  events in the subject project area.  On the other hand existing right of way (ROW) access that is and has been allowed for law enforcement, fire officials and other emergency responders is essential and cannot be hampered.  And other publics have been using the right of way for a long time without incident for access to reasonable persuits.  Additionally there have been clean ups of that ROW by civic groups.

If liability for accidents on the ROW is an issue with AMTRAK they should be aware that they might be absolved of such liability by the State General Obligations Law.

One additional concern is the impact that this project might have on Estuary aesthetics.  The Hudson River School of Painting should be a reminder of the importance of these aesthetics as are the tour boats that travel up and downstream to share Estuary viewscape and history from the water.  That viewscape and various aspects of the history of the Estuary immortalized by Francis F. Dunwell in her 1991 volume, THE HUDSON RIVER HIGHLANDS.

Responding to the applicants yes answers to activities noted in part C. COASTAL ASSESSMENT 

C,1,d (19,20):

Proposed activity will reduce public access to or along coastal waters!

C,2,a-d (7,11,12,24,44):

Proposed activity will affect or be located in, on, or adjacent to State designated tidal wetland, a Federally designated flood and or State designated erosion hazard area, State designated fish and or wildlife habitat and a State designated scenic resource or area.

C,2,h (19,20):

THIS SHOULD BE CHECKED YES, IT IS NOT CHECKD AT ALL ON THE APPLICATION!   At least Lasher and Cheviot Parks are local parks which would be effected by the proposed activitey(SEE INTERNET LINK NOTED ABOVE).

C,3,a (2, 21, 22)

Proposed activity will require consideration as waterfront sites.

Please acknowledge receipt of these comments and thank you for your consideration in this matter


Walter T. Keller