National Capital Region; Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement
The National Park Service (NPS) announces its intention to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and to conduct scoping to analyze the impacts associated with a land exchange between Georgetown University (University) and the NPS and the impacts associated with the construction of a proposed boathouse for the University on a site within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal NHP). In 1995 the NPS conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) on a proposed land exchange of the site owned by the University within the boundaries of the C&O Canal NHP). In 1995 the NPS conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) on a proposed land exchange of the site owned by the University within the boundaries of the C&O Canal NHP and a site located within the non-motorized boathouse zone established by the Georgetown Waterfront Park Plan. This EA resulted in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The three primary land use goals evaluated were: (1) Precluding development of a boathouse on the University's largely undisturbed inholding in the park with existing significant natural and cultural resources; (2) Extinguishing nearly a mile of private access over the Capital Crescent Trail; and (3) Placing the boathouse on property within the boathouse zone in furtherance of the recreational mandate of C&O Canal NHP Act and Georgetown Waterfront Park Plan. In 1997, the NPS signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office that contained a provision that the proposed University Boathouse would not have a footprint greater than 15,000 square feet. Since the University subsequently proposed an 18,600 square foot boathouse, an amendment to the MOA was required. As part of that process, the NPS conducted public meetings in June and July 2004 to determine whether to revise the MOA. As a result of those meetings and additional written comments, the NPS determined that an EA should be undertaken for the construction of the proposed boathouse. NPS released an EA on the proposed boathouse for public comment from April 25 thorough June 15, 2006, and held a public open house on the EA. Approximately 2,500 comments were received. Based on comments received on the 2006 EA, and pursuant to section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as implemented by the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR Parts 1500- 1508), NPS has determined a EIS that will evaluate both the proposed land exchange and the construction impacts of the proposed boathouse is the proper NEPA compliance document. For this reason, NPS announces its intent to prepare an EIS to analyze potential environmental impacts from the proposed action, the range of reasonable alternatives, and mitigation options. This EIS will consider alternative actions. Those alternatives may include: (1) Construction of a boathouse with a footprint of 18,682 square feet on the NPS-owned site within the C&O Canal NHP, which is described as Alternative C in the 2006 EA; (2) Construction of a boathouse with a footprint of 15,000 square feet on the NPS-owned site within the C&O Canal NHP; (3) Construction of a University Boathouse east of 34th Street on an NPS-owned site within the Georgetown Waterfront Park; (4) Construction of a University Boathouse upon the site owned by the University; and (5) A No Action alternative, which would not require this land exchange and would involve the continued use of the Thompson's Boat Center to house the University's rowing program. Topics for analysis may include the constructability of the boathouse and/or by-right development on the University-owned site; natural, cultural and intangible resource values of the University- owned site; hydrology within the project area; possible impacts on wildlife; possible wetlands; balancing uses on the Capital Crescent Trail; and the cumulative impacts of the project in combination with the Washington Canoe Club, Potomac Boat Club, Jacks Boats, Dempsey's boathouse site, potential George Washington University boathouse and Thompson's Boat Center. The EIS will be prepared in compliance with NEPA and applicable regulations, including NPS Director's Order 12 and Interior Departmental Manual at 516 DM.