Judge Says Feds Needn’t |Keep D.C. Marina Open

     WASHINGTON (CN) – An historic marina near downtown Washington, D.C. will close Tuesday despite legal action against the Department of the Interior and National Park Service, which operated the facility.
     A group of boat owners that utilized the Buzzard Point Marina, which sits on the Anacostia River a mile north of where the river empties into the Patomac River, fought the National Park Service’s decision to close marina, which was announced last August.
     The boat owners “and several of their friends” argued that the agency didn’t seek public input before making the decision, according to court records. They also argued that dismantling the marina infrastructure will have an environmental impact on wildlife in the area.
     In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the marina users “are united and emphatic in their desire to have a voice in the planning process, but there has been no failure to comply with the regulations to date.”
     She added that “the question of whether a rulemaking will be required with regard to a permanent closure is not ripe.”
     “[T]he court cannot grant plaintiffs the remedy they seek – the right to stay at Buzzard Point – in the absence of a concessioner to operate the marina. The court simply cannot force the government to solicit a new contract pursuant to the Concessions Act or any other statute, and that is really the beginning and end of plaintiffs’ action for injunctive relief,” Jackson wrote in the 43-page opinion.
     The National Park Service decided in August 2015 not to solicit proposals for a new concessions contract for the marina.
     In a letter to Buzzard Point Boatyard Corp., which operated concessions at the marina, the agency said it was closing the place “because ‘the condition of the marina facility warrants extensive improvements, but the cost is too great to make it a profitable business,'” court records show.
     The boat owners sued Dec. 8, 2015, to stop the marina’s planned New Year’s Eve closure.
     On Dec. 11, the U.S. Department of the Interior and National Park Service officials told the D.C. District Court that it reached an agreement with Buzzard Point Boatyard Corp. to temporary renew management services through Feb. 29, 2016.
     Jackson said Friday that the National Park Service “cannot be obligated to continue to offer services at Buzzard Point in perpetuity simply because it once found it necessary and appropriate to do so.”
     “When one disentangles the jumble of evolving legal theories that plaintiffs have put before the court – as one must do to assess the validity of any individual claim – it becomes clear that the Park Service has acted in accordance with the law to date,” the judge wrote.
     However, Jackson noted that the National Park Service must conduct an environmental analysis “before disturbing the physical environment at the marina or closing it permanently.” Her decision says the agency has acknowledged that requirement.

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