FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Austin Hacker
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lack of transparency and unclear fee policies negatively impacts Kentucky’s marina businesses
WASHINGTON — Today, Congressman James Comer (R-Ky.) introduced the Maintaining Access to Recreational Industry and Necessary Adjustments (MARINA) Act. For too long, communities in the First Congressional District which rely on tourism have seen the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) recklessly wield their authority to charge administrative fees for improvement projects and events located on Corps owned and managed marina property. The MARINA Act recognizes the role locally owned marinas have in fulfilling the Corps congressionally mandated mission of enhancing recreational opportunities by creating a standardized framework for calculating administrative fees and capping the amount of sales on items with a low profit margin that can be used to determine a marina operator’s annual rent to the Corps.
“Kentucky’s First Congressional District has the largest number of marinas in the state, and each provides critical economic opportunities for our local communities. Unfortunately, the Army Corps appears to be levying inconsistent and exorbitant fees against marina owners without sufficient justification or transparency. Unexpected fees can cripple a marina operation, and many are currently attempting to survive historically high inflation. As Ranking Member on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, I have challenged the Army Corps to provide explanations for their unclear fee policies, but serious concerns remain. My legislation, the MARINA Act, will now bring much needed transparency and security for marina owners, while ensuring all fees are calculated consistently and properly,” said Congressman James Comer.
“On behalf of the Kentucky and Tennessee Marina Associations and our 300-plus members, I want to thank Congressman Comer for his leadership and efforts to remedy these problems our marinas encounter on a daily basis. Our member marinas invest their money and their time into creating some of the best recreational and tourism experiences in the country and the visitor numbers for our marinas are proof of that. Our members have tried to work with Corps of Engineers and get them to recognize our desire and hope to be treated as partners in providing tourism and recreation across the country but, unfortunately, they’ve not done that and we appreciate Congressman Comer’s recognition of our members’ importance and impacts to the regions or areas they serve and his willingness to help us with these problems,” said Michele Edwards, Executive Director of the Kentucky and Tennessee Marina Associations.
The MARINA Act establishes that sales of food, beverages, fuel, boats, motors, and boat lifts must be capped at one percent for calculating rental payments. In addition, the bill defines when administrative fees may be charged, ensures they are for non-routine Corps District functions, and extends initial lease terms to 50 years and renewals to 25 years. The added stability in the length of lease contracts and renewals would also provide aid in expanding access to credit for marina owners.
In February 2021, Congressman Comer highlighted the Corps’ lack of transparency and requested documents from the Corps to ensure marina businesses were not unfairly charged.
In May 2022, Congressman Comer emphasized how questions remain about the Corps’ fee policies and requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a study examining these administrative fee practices to ensure all fees are being calculated fairly.
Read bill text here.