WASHINGTON — Today, House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) raised concerns over information detailing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) possibly levying inconsistent, confusing, unexpected, and exorbitant fees against marina business owners. In a letter to U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, Ranking Member Comer emphasized how questions remain about the Corps’ fee policies and procedures and requested the GAO conduct a study examining these administrative fee practices to ensure all fees are being calculated properly.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) has the authority to charge administrative fees for certain real estate transactions at Corps owned and managed marinas. According to information reviewed by Committee Republicans, the Corps appears to be levying inconsistent, confusing, unexpected, and exorbitant fees against marina business owners,” wrote Ranking Member Comer. “On February 2, 2021, we wrote to the Corps requesting documents and communications about the management of marinas. While the Corps’ response was helpful and appreciated, questions still remain about the policy and procedures used to charge administrative fees.”
In the February 2, 2021 letter, Ranking Member Comer highlighted the Corps’ lack of transparency and uniformity of fees charged to marina owners and requested documents from the Corps to ensure marina businesses were not unfairly charged. While certain Corps district offices have provided some fee schedules, it is still not clear if fees are being calculated consistently, or if there is a broader policy about the charging of these administrative fees.
“Marinas are often managed by small business owners. Unexpected fees can have serious impacts to their businesses, especially when fees may be disproportionate to the revenues business owners may be expecting from a proposed action. Examples of fees facing marina owners include $20,000 to review a marina development plan, $9,500 to review the expansion of a picnic area into a campsite, and $500 to approve an event. This raises questions about what constitutes a real estate transaction and how fees are calculated. Given that GAO has published a design guide for federal user fees, we request that GAO undertake a study of the Corps’ activities with respect to charging these administrative fees and how the Corps’ practices align with GAO’s guide,” concluded Ranking Member Comer.
Read the letter here.