DC Council Plans to Create Comprehensive Planning Body for District Waterways Amid Financial and Environmental Struggles – Greater Greater Washington

Boats at Dock Image by Aimee Custis Photography under license Creative Commons.

Housing and Executive Administration Committee Chair Anita Bonds (At-Large) met last week to discuss Bill 24-0617the District Waterways Management Authority Establishment Act 2022, which would create, as its name suggests, a District Waterways Management Authority as well as a District Waterways Management Commission. These entities would be housed within a district waterways office under the Department of Energy and Environment.

Co-presented by Council Members Allen (Ward 6), Cheh (Ward 3), Nadeau (Ward 1), T. White (Ward 8), Gray (Ward 7), Pinto (Ward 2) and McDuffie (Ward 5) ), the bill’s stated purposes are to “comprehensively plan, manage, coordinate, promote, and defend the diverse uses” of the Washington Canal and the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and adjacent properties. The proposed authority and commission would be tasked with creating a district waterways management action plan, which would involve working with regional and federal authorities and agencies as well as community organizations and private stakeholders.

The Committee reportThe language of cited the success of the district’s waterfront revitalization efforts and concern for the continued health of DC’s waterways. The District of Columbia exercises complete territorial control over the Potomac River through the district and even over some lands on the west side. Yet it has no way to regulate the health of the water that enters DC from the watersheds of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The report called for better inter-agency and cross-regional collaboration to meet the needs of shore and river communities – the district recognizes several boaters living on board and the report specifically noted the Gangplank Slipholders Associationthe Capital yacht cluband the Sailors Yacht Club as obvious stakeholders. He also cited public testimony suggesting the region’s waterways were both over-regulated and under-regulated.

“Witnesses explained that development projects and commercial ventures have to go through an unnecessarily cumbersome and complicated process, in part because some agencies have overlapping or conflicting jurisdictions,” the report notes. “Stakeholders have testified that some maritime issues regarding the development and use of waterway infrastructure are beyond the scope of a single regulator, leaving key decisions in the hands of private developers.”

Most of the conversation during the meeting focused on the composition of the committee. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson asked why the report called for a committee of 25 to 30 people.

“You know, my view is that it’s easier if [the eight council appointees are] appointed by the President of the Board,” Mendelson said in reference to his own role, “because otherwise you have to go through hearings and board votes.” Regarding the many non-voting agency representatives on the proposed board, Mendelson asked “Why not let the mayor decide which agencies should be on it and let her do so many members? without the right to vote as she wishes?”

Bonds explained that non-voting members are “treated more like technical or expert participants” and “[do] do not restrict the affairs of the body. Bonds elaborated, saying, “The testimony we received indicated that it would certainly be helpful to have input from non-DC agencies or federal agencies, because much of what is going to be of concern and has been of concern requires some contribution. of them.”

Due to the nature of the bill and the fact that it would be hosted by the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), Mendelson expressed concern that Bonds did not yet have it. forwarded to the Transport and Environment Committee.

“I’m more concerned about it being flagged and then we find out that because it hasn’t been referred to the Transport and Environment Committee they have concerns and we’re suddenly upset,” said Mendelson said. .

Committee members Pinto, McDuffie and Silverman (At-Large) were not present. Board member Robert White (At-Large) and Mendelson voted to have Bonds refer the print to the full committee. Mendelson said earlier in the hearing that he had tentatively reserved B24-0617 for legislative reading before the full committee in early December.

On another level, the future of a unified agency regulating DC’s waterways remains murky. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee concluded in a Financial impact statement that there are insufficient funds in the budget – until fiscal year 2026 – to implement the bill. The statement noted that the cost of implementing fiscal year 2023 would be $471,000 and $1.3 million over the bill’s four-year financial plan period.

This week on DC Council:

The Committee of the Whole met Tuesday at noon to consider the WMATA Board of Directors Amendment Act, 2021 (B24-0124) during his first examination. The bill would relax the requirements for representing the district on the WMATA board of directors. CHSAP – which, as a resolution, only requires one ballot – will pass by the end of the month unless a resolution of approval or disapproval emerges. B24-0124 will now go to second reading. All Council members voted yes on both measures with the exception of Council Member Cheh who was absent.

In the legislative session that followed, the Council sent the Immobilizer Program Amendment Act, 2022 at Mayor Bowser’s office. The bill would affect DC licensees who violated DUI laws on a military base or in a foreign country. For those drivers, the bill would require the use of an ignition interlock, preventing the car from starting if the driver fails a breathalyzer test.

The Board also approved the resolution PR 24-1041 and its sister bill B24-1095exempting the proposed 11th Street Bridge from City By-law DC 2605.7(a), avoiding the search for a “practicable alternative”.

The next legislative meeting of the Council is scheduled for December 6 at noon.

Coming to the file:

The Committee on Transport and the Environment will hold a meeting on Thursday 17 November at 1 p.m. No public program has been set.

The Committee of the Whole will vote on Monday, November 21 at noon on the resolution PR 24-1037 which would confirm Anita Cozart as Director of the Planning Office. Cozart has served as acting director since December 2021, when her predecessor, Andrew Trueblood, left the post. Immediately thereafter, COW will vote on the resolution PR 24-1038 which would reappoint architect Matthew Bell to the Historic Preservation Review Board, where he has served since 2020.

On Tuesday, November 22, the Housing and Executive Administration Committee will hold a public hearing at 11 a.m. – rescheduled to November 17 – to discuss Bill 24-802the Green New Deal for Housing Amendment Act of 2022.

John Besche is a DC-based writer reporting on religion, city planning, the confluence of the two, and a bit of everything in between. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBesche.