Norton Asks U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Extend Comment Period on Proposed Rule Restricting Access to Washington Channel, and Hold Public Meeting

Nov 10, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) sent a letter asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to extend the comment period on a proposed rule restricting public access to the Washington Channel in the District of Columbia and to hold a public meeting on the proposed rule during the extended comment period.  Norton’s Southwest Waterfront development legislation has spurred many new forms of travel and recreation in the District. The current comment period for the proposed rule is scheduled to end on November 12th. In her letter, Norton noted that D.C. residents have significant concerns with the proposed rule and that the current deadline does not allow for adequate time for public input.

“I’ve spoken to District of Columbia government officials and interested parties and I agree with them that the November 12 end to the comment period on this rule is too early to ensure that we hear concerns District residents may have about this proposed rule,” Norton said. “Congress passed my bill to develop the Southwest Waterfront (the Wharf), which is still in progress, and the Washington Channel is increasingly being used for water taxis and forms of recreation that also provide tax revenue for D.C., such as kayaking, sailing and river events. I’d like to at least allow time for thorough discussion of potential consequences for closing the Channel for those most affected before this rule change proceeds.”

The full letter is below.

 

November 6, 2020

 

General Scott Spellmon

55th Chief of Engineers and Commanding General

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

441 G Street NW

Washington, DC 20314

 

Dear General Spellmon:

I write to request a 60-day extension of the comment period and a public meeting during the extended comment period on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) revised proposed rule (COE-2019-0010) restricting public access to the Washington Channel next to Fort McNair in the District of Columbia.  After speaking with the District of Columbia government and other interested parties, I am concerned that the current comment period for this revised proposed rule, which is scheduled to end on November 12, 2020, does not provide sufficient time for public input, particularly since interested parties have significant concerns with the revised proposed rule. 

I thank USACE for extending, at my request, the comment period on the original version of the proposed rule and ask for the same accommodation on the revised proposed rule.  The revised proposed rule was published on October 13, 2020.  However, my office was not made aware that the revised proposed rule had been published until October 22, 2020, and many interested parties were not aware either until my office informed them.  

Congress passed my bill to redevelop the Southwest Waterfront, and the Wharf will be one of the sites most affected by the revised proposed rule.  The Wharf has reinvigorated community engagement on the waterfront and has generated considerable tax revenue for the District.  The Washington Channel is increasingly used for regional transportation (water taxis) and recreation (kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, motorboating and river events).  This stretch past Fort McNair in Southwest is the only connection to the Potomac River.  We are particularly concerned that the proposed restrictions may force kayaks and other recreational boats into the same space as water taxis and cruise ships, potentially causing injury. 

Given that the comment period is scheduled to end on November 12, 2020, I request a written response by November 9, 2020, regarding an extension of the comment period and a public meeting.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Eleanor Holmes Norton