- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

National Park Service officials have rejected District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams' plea not to shut down the Anacostia Marina in Southeast during a massive cleanup that will put boaters out for months and leave marina workers without jobs.

Park Service officials plan to close the marina, at 1900 M St. SE, on Sept. 30 for an undetermined amount of time so the federal government can begin cleaning up what they describe as a polluted site.

The agency's action came after the marina's operator, Thomas C. Long, who is under investigation by the FBI for possible environmental standards violations, repeatedly failed over the years to comply with numerous environmental regulations. As a result, the Park Service did not renew Mr. Long's contract, which expires Sept. 30.

In a letter to the Park Service, Mr. Williams told John Hale, superintendent of National Capital Parks East, that the marina is the city's only working boat yard that repairs city police and commercial tour boats and has been a source of employment.

The marina, which opened in 1965, has 10 full-time employees and moors more than 80 boats at its pier, which is along the Anacostia River. Last year alone, the marina repaired about 4,000 boats.

The mayor, in the Sept. 1 letter, asked Mr. Hale to keep the marina open to visitors and boat owners unless there is widespread environmental damage found on the property. As of yesterday, the Park Service had not yet received results of water and soil samples that were taken from the site.

"It is the marina where our Harbor Police and Rescue vessels and several of our commercial tour boats are hauled and serviced," the mayor wrote. "It is a source of revenue to the District, and it is a source of jobs for District and non-District residents."

Mr. Williams suggested that the Park Service and the city come up with ways to manage the marina together, giving each agency oversight over the facility's boating operations and cleanup efforts.

"The mayor's vision for the Anacostia includes recreational usage," said Jim Wareck, special assistant to the mayor on environmental affairs. "To further that goal, people will need to enjoy the river. In the absence of significant environmental damage, closing the marina doesn't help the vision of a living Anacostia."

As for Mr. Long's future, Mr. Wareck said: "That's not our determination. That's between Mr. Long and the National Park Service."

Park Service officials said that despite the mayor's letter, they intend to keep the marina closed during what they said will be an "extensive" cleanup process.

"We're staying the course with that," said Janet Braxton, a spokeswoman with the National Park Service-National Parks East. "If we should find a vehicle that would allow us to keep the operations going, we would possibly be amenable to that. But as of yet we haven't found that vehicle."

Park Service officials said last month they decided to shut down the marina, which sits on federal property, because the kind of cleanup work needed to bring the facility up to environmental standards could be hazardous for visitors.

Miss Braxton said yesterday the Park Service is still taking water and soil samples at the site to determine the extent of the damage. "If there was some way we could keep the marina open while cleaning it, we would," Miss Braxton said. "But we haven't found one. We will proceed with securing the site and hopefully begin restoring it."

Miss Braxton said the Park Service extended the original Sept. 1 deadline to Sept. 30 to give boaters enough time to move their vessels from the facility.

The mayor's letter drew plaudits from boat owners who moor their vessels at the marina.

"It's wonderful that the mayor has recognized the need for safety that the marina provides for the bigger boats that have nowhere to go," said Phil Yunger, of Northeast. "We welcome the mayor's involvement."

Mr. Long declined to comment on this story yesterday. But an employee who answered the telephone at the facility last night said Mr. Long did not hear about the mayor's request.

"Mr. Long hasn't seen anything," employee Janis Holland said. "Certainly no one sent or faxed a copy to us here." Miss Holland also said Mr. Long and his employees have begun packing up their belongings and have stopped accepting new work.

Over the years, several government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard have issued Mr. Long an extensive list of environmental warnings and citations, most of which Mr. Long never attempted to correct, Park Service officials have said.

In some cases, the federal government had to pick up the tab, up to $10,000 in one case, to correct the violations.

For example, the Coast Guard has issued two separate warnings to Mr. Long since 1994 for not reporting an oil spill to proper authorities.

At one time, the Coast Guard also warned Mr. Long to remove a sunken boat from the marina. The Coast Guard spent about $5,000 cleaning up the oil from the water and removing the boat. Mr. Long was neither cited nor fined in that case.

Miss Braxton said the Park Service had given Mr. Long many opportunities to correct the violations, but nothing was ever done. No action was taken sooner because the agency first tried to work with Mr. Long, Miss Braxton said.

"We're not an enforcement agency," Miss Braxton said. "We did give him ample opportunity to clean up the site. It just didn't happen. We could have terminated his contract, but the Park Service really tried to work with him first. It didn't work out."

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