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DeFazio Uses Chairmanship to Influence D.C. Waterway Policy for Personal Gain

Democrat Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, allegedly abused his position for personal gain by sending a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers opposing a proposed rule that would put permanent restrictions on part of the Washington Channel to protect the most vulnerable parts of an Army base. The waterway is where the houseboat used as DeFazio’s “DC residence” allegedly resides.

While in Washington, DC, DeFazio is believed to keep his boat and live at the Capital Yacht Club (CYC). The club is located in the wharf of D.C., which is the location of a recent $2 billion waterfront development that resulted in luxury condos, high-end stores, and multiple Michelin-recognized restaurants.

The Democrat’s boat is reported to be a 32-foot cabin cruiser nicknamed “Eastward Ho” for his father’s youth camp and was purchased in 2007 for $16,500. In September 2008, it was also reported that DeFazio lived at the Gangplank Marina aboard the boat. This past August, he admitted to living aboard a boat for approximately 13 or 14 of his 34-year career in Congress. According to DeFazio’s financial disclosure reports covering the years 2015 to 2019, the congressman took out a loan secured by his boat, which he listed as “my DC residence,” for up to $15,000.

DeFazio was recently asked by the Washington Post, “Have you lived on a boat throughout your entire 34 years in Congress.” “No. I wish I had. … I’ve been living on a boat now for 13 or 14 years,” he said, responding to the question posed. “I started in the public marina for almost a decade, and then when the development happens, I didn’t know what was going to happen with the public marina, so I moved over to the Yacht Club.” He admitted to using the boat as his “DC residence” since 2007 or 2008. Interestingly enough, DeFazio also admittingly said, “the optics” of living on a boathouse would be bad, and he is aware someone might run ads on him someday.

The Capital Yacht Club is seen on the Potomac River on June 17, 2005, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Shortly before the interview, this past June, a fellow resident of the waterfront confirmed on social media that “the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure lives on a houseboat” while also joking about “Gangplank and CYC being like floating trailer parks.”

In August 2019, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comments — for docket number COE-2019-0010 — regarding a proposal to establish a permanent restricted area in the Washington Channel adjacent to Fort McNair — which is located 1.3 miles from the CYC.

The summary for the proposed rule stated that the Army Corps of Engineers proposed establishing a permanent restricted area in the Washington Channel area adjacent to Ft. McNair. A report executed by DeFazio’s committee stated that the proposed rule was made in an “effort” to bolster security post “9/11” and “shootings at the Washington Navy Yard.” The fort is the headquarters of the Army’s Military District of Washington where the National Defense University (NDU) is located and serves as the official residence of the U.S. Army’s Vice Chief of Staff.

Commander of the Military District of Washington Major General Omar Jones noted that the proposed restricted area would deter electronic surveillance and that the side of the base along the Washington Channel is the most vulnerable. Other senior U.S. intelligence officials have stated to WUSA under the condition of anonymity that the push to increase the security was also due to threats from Iran.

The proposed perimeter “would take up to one-third of the channel along the base, which it says will protect military assets” by “extending up to 150 meters at its widest point,” and making that so a “watercraft could pass by but would be ‘prohibited from anchoring, mooring or loitering,’” according to another WaPo report. However, the report also argued that the proposal would restrict the use of the waters south of the “booming” Wharf area, stating the water is “the biggest draw in the city’s newest neighborhood, attracting thousands of visitors.’”

Skyline View of Fisherman's Wharf in Washington DC

Skyline View of Fisherman’s Wharf in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

In September 2019 — utilizing his position as chairman of the House Transportation Committee in addition to being a House member representing constituents from Oregon and not D.C. — DeFazio sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers opposing the proposed rule, and Breitbart News obtained a copy of the letter. He requested a 90-day extension of the comment period for the proposed rule that would “severely limit public access to the area,” noting that “The current 30-day period does not provide enough time for public input.” He added:

Over the last decade, the Southwest Waterfront and Wharf have seen a dramatic redevelopment. Key to the success of this area is the ability to utilize the Washington Channel for multiple public purposes, which include water taxis and recreation (kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, and motorboating). The USACE’s proposed restriction of the channel would significantly narrow the waterway, leading to safety concerns for many users of the channel.

On the letter, DeFazio also copied Matt Colip, Rear Commodore of the Capital Yacht Club.

DeFazio’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Breitbart News when asked if the congressman abused his chairmanship by writing a letter in his official capacity to pressure the Army Corps of Engineers.

Obtained by Breitbart News:

DeFazio – Letter to Army Corps of Engineers by Breitbart News on Scribd

In November 2019, Tim Fontana, the commodore of the CYC — representing 252 CYC members — issued a public comment in opposition to the proposed rule, arguing that it would impose “an unnecessary navigation and boating hazard”:

My name is Tim Fontana and I am the Commodore of Capital Yacht Club (CYC) representing the 252 members of CYC, including 50 full-time live-aboard members who reside at Capital Yacht Club on the Washington Channel in Washington, DC. We are writing in opposition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal (COE-2019-0100) which establishes a permanent restricted area in the Washington Channel adjacent to Fort McNair. [Emphasis added]

In December 2020, WaPo reported that the proposed rule was revised “after pressure from members of Congress,” noting that DeFazio and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) had expressed their concern:

The Army Corps of Engineers proposal is a revised version of a plan that would have banned boat traffic near the Fort McNair shoreline. That more restrictive plan was altered after pressure from members of Congress and opposition from neighboring communities. [Emphasis added]

Reps. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Army Corps of Engineers, and Norton, who led efforts in Congress to revitalize the D.C. waterfront, expressed concern that a no-go zone would force all water traffic into a narrow passage of the channel. [Emphasis added]

In March 2021, Norton introduced H.R. 1765, the “Washington Channel Public Access Act.” The summary of the bill stated it would prohibit the “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) from finalizing, implementing, or enforcing the proposed rule titled Washington Channel, Fort McNair, Washington, DC; Restricted Area.” It would also prohibit “the USACE from implementing any other rule that restricts public access to the Washington Channel in the District.”

Marine One lands in front of the National War College as US President Joe Biden arrives at Fort McNair, in Washington,DC on August 16, 2021. - President Biden arrived in Washington,DC after cutting short vacation amid the Afghanistan crisis. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Marine One lands in front of the National War College as U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at Fort McNair, in Washington, DC, on August 16, 2021. President Biden arrived in D.C. after cutting short vacation amid the Afghanistan crisis. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Norton’s Act is directly tied to the letter DeFazio sent trying to prohibit USACE from “finalizing, implementing, or enforcing the proposed rule,” which was initially crafted to protect the “most vulnerable” parts of the base that house some military officials and the NDU.

Interestingly enough, under DeFazio’s leadership as chairman, the committee approved H.R. 1765 just two weeks after it was introduced, on March 24. The committee’s press release said the “Approved legislation is now ready for consideration on the House floor.”

DeFazio’s office also did not respond to a request for comment from Breitbart News when asked if the chairman expedited Norton’s bill through the committee faster in order for it to be voted on by the House more quickly.

Jacob Bliss is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter.

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