Posts Tagged “Boathouse”
After years of incredibly expensive lobbying, and 18 months after the National Park Service seemed to postpone the project ad infinitum, it appears that the University’s efforts to build a boathouse on the Potomac waterfront are ever so slightly moving forward again.
Although the NPS started the process of creating an Environmental Impact Statement in 2007, it has never been completed. In early 2009, a NPS spokesperson said the statement would be released within approximately five months. In June 2010, the same spokesperson said that “new information” required expanding the EIS study. He said, “I cannot say when the entire process is going to be completed.”
The NPS has now unveiled its plans for a new feasibility study, which will be assembled during next spring and summer following discussions with key stakeholders in the process, including Georgetown. The results of the study will be shared with the public during additional meetings in late summer and early autumn of next year.
In an e-mail to Patch, University spokesperson Stacy Kerr wrote, “We remain committed to constructing a boathouse along the Potomac that will meet the needs of our men’s and women’s crew programs and that is a positive addition to the waterfront.”
Tomorrow night at the Washington Harbour, at 3050 K Street NW Suite 200, from 6-8 p.m. the NPS will be holding an informational meeting and open house to talk about the study and answer questions. There will not be opportunity for public comment, though that is unlikely to stop members of the coalition of the Defenders of Potomac River Parkland from voicing their opinions about the proposed boathouse.
To date, Georgetown has spent over $1 million on lobbying for the boathouse, but it is unclear whether that grand expense actually had any effect. The University’s main lobbyist for the project, the Carmen Group, was only nominally employed by the University for much of 2009 and all of 2010. The group has not filed any disclosure reports for 2011 that indicate it still represents the University’s interests. In 2009, the University’s Office of Federal Relations appeared to be taking over lobbying for the project, but its disclosure reports for 2010 and 2011 do not indicate any substantial lobbying for the boathouse.
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These days, $1,000,000 won’t get you very far—at least not on the shores of the Potomac.
Despite spending seven figures on lobbying efforts aimed to get the National Park Service to approve the construction of a new boathouse in the C&O Canal National Historic Park, the University hasn’t gotten the NPS to budge an inch.
In fact, Georgetown’s dreams of a new boathouse may be slipping further away, according to the Georgetown Current‘s Carol Buckley. In last week’s issue [PDF] of the Current, Buckley reported that “new information” led the NPS to “expand the scope” of its Environmental Impact Study.
The unnamed information is “significant enough to lead to additional public meetings,” according to NPS spokesperson Bill Line, who Buckley interviewed. “I cannot say when the entire process is going to be completed,” Line said.
When coupled with the University’s dwindling payments to the Carmen Group, the lobbying firm hired to push NPS to approve the plan, this new focus on the Environmental Impact Survey suggests that the chances of a new boathouse are slim.
From January to March of 2010, the University paid $5,000 to the Carmen Group, which follows the spending pattern it established in the last half of 2009. So, what did the University get for $5,000?
“No direct contact with the National Park Service, but ongoing consultation[s] with Georgetown with regard to environmental documentation,” according to public disclosure forms.
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Georgetown must really want a boathouse on the Potomac. In the fourth quarter of 2009, the school spent at least $5,000 on lobbying efforts (PDF) ultimately aimed at getting the National Park Service to approve the proposed boathouse on the Potomac. That brings the total lobbying fees spent on the boathouse to at least $1,060,000, by Vox‘s count.
Unfortunately for Georgetown’s lobbyists in the Carmen Group, these are no longer boom times for boathouse lobbyists. In the first quarter of 2009, the group was pulling in $40,000 for talking with National Park Service officials about the boathouse. By the fourth quarter, though, the Group was only making $5,000 for helping Georgetown with “environmental documentation.”
According to Scott Fleming, Georgetown’s Associate Vice President for Federal Relations, boathouse lobbying now is focused around matching construction plans to existing sewage pipes that run along the river (although not into the river, Planeteers).
As usual, it’s impossible to know how much Georgetown spends exactly because of Fleming’s own lobbying report (PDF). The report says Fleming spent $20,000 on various lobbying efforts, including the boathouse and a potential West Bank hospital.
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A computer-generated image of the boathouse (on the left)
Georgetown just wants to row, row, row its boats, spending as much as $5,000 from July to September lobbying for the right to build a boathouse on the Potomac, according to disclosure forms. That brings the amount of money spent lobbying for the boathouse to a few thousand dollars over $1.2 million.
The exact amount Georgetown paid its lobbyists, the Carmen Group, is unclear because lobbying rules only require that amounts over $5,000 be disclosed. The less than $5,000 tab is a big drop for the Carmen Group, which was paid $20,000 last quarter for boathouse lobbying.
Judging by the disclosure forms, it looks like the Group didn’t contact anyone in the National Park Service, its usual lobbying target when working on Georgetown’s behalf. The Carmen Group might be off talking to the agency because Scott Fleming, Georgetown’s in-house lobbyist, has been working with the Park Service instead.
This quarter, Fleming received $20,000 for lobbying for Georgetown on various issues, including working with the Park Service on the boathouse. Alas, because Fleming lobbies for Georgetown on other issues, it’s impossible to know how much of the 20 grand is for boathouse work.
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A computer-generated image of what the boathouse would look like
Georgetown is definitely putting its money where its mouth is on the proposed boathouse on the Potomac. A lobbying report [PDF] filed last week shows that between April and June Georgetown paid $20,000 to the Carmen Group, a lobbying firm that has been doing work on the project since 2005. This brings the all-time boathouse lobbying bill to more than $1.2 million.
According to the report, during this period the Carmen Group had no direct contact with the National Park Service, but engaged in “ongoing consultation” with the University about environmental documentation.
The total lobbying bill for the boathouse is definitely higher than $1.2 million. Another lobbying report (PDF) issued earlier in the month disclosing $30,000 worth of spending combines other costs of boathouse lobbying with lobbying for other issues, such as student loan bills, making it impossible to figure out how much of that 30 grand went towards fighting for the boathouse.
What’s all this money getting Georgetown? Scott Fleming, Georgetown’s Assistant Vice President for Federal Relations, and the University’s point man on lobbying issues, wrote in an email that the National Park Service is currently working on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement about the boathouse, but it’s unclear when the Draft EIS will be released.
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Computer-generated Georgetown boathouse (the boathouse on the left)
The administration must love the crew team. Now, new lobbying disclosure reports from the first quarter of this year show that boathouse lobbying has cost Georgetown at least $1,030,000, up from $990,000 from the last time the Voice reported on boathouse lobbying.
The two reports, filed by lobbyists at the Carmen Group and Georgetown’s personal lobbyist Scott Fleming, report more than $40,000 spent on the boathouse. The Carmen report (embedded below) has $40,000 paid from Georgetown to the Carmen Group. This quarter, according to the report, the Carmen Group took a break from its usual job talking to the National Park Service and just helped Georgetown deal with environmental paperwork.
It’s impossible to figure out how much Fleming’s form (PDF) adds to the boathouse bill because the $30,000 he lists in lobbying fees includes advocacy for other issues like the D.C. Voting Rights Act, which was a pretty cool thing of Georgetown to lobby for.
Check out the Carmen Group’s documents after the jump!
Read the rest of this entry »
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Georgetown’s crew team might be getting help in its long-running battle for a boathouse on the Potomac from the longest serving member of Congress. City Paper writer Mike DeBonis (Voice alum, natch) says Representative John Dingell of Michigan’s investigation into the Washington Canoe Club, a boathouse opponent, is making some people suspect Georgetown’s involved.
Dingell, who got both a bachelor’s and a law degree from Georgetown, sent the Canoe Club a letter accusing it of being a private club on federal land. Four other clubs on federal land have higher membership fees, though, and have not been contacted by Dingell.
It’s unclear whether Dingell is trying to knock out a boathouse opponent or is really dedicated to universal canoe access. What is clear, though, is that the Canoe Club is pretty dingy on the outside. Maybe the interior is palatial, but these pictures say more “unloved campsite” than “hall of privilege.”
-Will Sommer, blog editor
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