UPDATE: The U.S. Coast Guard, based upon publication of the story below, announced it extended the public comment period for the anchorage proposal. A Federal Register notice on July 14 informed the public the comment period for the Coast Guard’s proposal would be re-opened and continue through Aug. 15. The public notice can be viewed at bit.ly/29ZKgum.
MARINA DEL REY — If a federal agency holds a meeting and no one attends then did the meeting ever happen?
This is not a question of existentialism and spirituality but instead a look into how the U.S. Coast Guard held a meeting for public comment in Marina del Rey but with no one in attendance.
Specifically the Coast Guard hosted a meeting on April 12 and hoped to gather public input on a planned final ruling. The Coast Guard wanted to know whether a proposal to shrink the size of an anchorage – as opposed to disestablishing it as originally proposed – would be a welcomed move among Marina del Rey boaters.
In 2014 the Coast Guard originally proposed to disestablish the special anchorage located at the north end of Marina del Rey’s main channel. A federal notice about the proposed disestablishment stated the anchorage was being encroached upon by a number of marina expansion projects.
A press release was published on the Coast Guard website on March 4 and reportedly shared with a few media outlets. (The Log did not receive notice or a copy of the press release but we did see the version posted online).
The press release informed interested parties the Coast Guard sought public comment on a proposal to retain an anchorage in Marina del Rey. Contact information and three sentences informing readers of a public comment period was included on the release, which was posted on the Coast Guard’s website.
“The 11th Coast Guard District invites the public to comment on a proposal to amend the shape and reduce the size of the special anchorage area in Marina Del Rey Harbor,” the press release stated. “Additionally, the Coast Guard proposes to clarify language in the note section of the existing regulation. The comment period will be open until April 14, 2016. Detailed information concerning the proposal can be found at regulations.gov by searching USCG-2014-0142.”
No further information was included.
Visiting the website and searching the file information as instructed revealed only two primary posts were made in 2016 — one on Feb. 29 and another on April 20. Supporting documents were posted on Feb. 9.
The Feb. 29 post informed readers of the Coast Guard’s proposal to retain an anchorage and included reference to the public comment period closing on April 14. References to an April 12 meeting were not mentioned anywhere in the document.
Accordingly anyone who followed the instructions of the March 4 press release between the day it was published and April 19 would not have known about the April 12 public meeting in Marina del Rey. Specific information about a public meeting was not conspicuously available until April 20.
Coast Guard officials confirmed no one attended the April 12 meeting at Burton Chace Park.
“There were five Coast Guard representatives at the meeting including personnel from Coast Guard District 11 and Coast Guard Sector L.A./L.B. Waterways Office. Unfortunately, no one from the public came to the meeting, so after 30 minutes, we dismissed the official court reporter and after one hour we departed,” Lt. Colleen Patton of the Coast Guard told The Log in an email.
No information was revealed of how much the meeting cost the Coast Guard.
She added one public comment was submitted through the Federal Register and would be posted online.
“The Coast Guard is currently finalizing the proposed rule for publication. Pending receipt and review of the one comment to the docket, we intend finalize the proposal outlined in the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, which reduces the size and amends the shape of the anchorage,” Patton said.
The real question, however, is whether boaters knew of this meeting.
“I did not know about the meeting. I don’t think they told anybody about it,” said Mike Leneman, a Marina del Rey boater.
Patton acknowledged the meeting notice was published eight days after it occurred because of an administrative delay in Washington, D.C. The federal agency extended the public comment period to April 30 to compensate for the miscommunication, she added.
The Coast Guard indeed did accept additional public comments through April 30.
However did the Coast Guard drop the ball in how it handled the noticing of the April 12 public meeting?