Optimism is the one-word summary of my December trip to Washington, D.C.
If you follow On Watch closely, you may remember that I embarked on a lobby trip to the capital of the United States. It was a détente of sorts between recreational boating interests and the new guidance from National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) West Coast office that essentially puts a halt on improving, repairing, and maintaining any existing marinas.
You’re telling me that a marina owner who first goes through the Army Corps for permits and then to NOAA for finalization will now get stonewalled by NOAA’s West Coast Office? You bet I am.
As for the official reason, NOAA points to advice they received from their general counsel. They cite Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and how work in the water (and marinas in general) has a cumulative effect on salmon habitat. The next line of answers focuses on bringing this guidance in line with the approach NOAA is taking in California.
I’m sure that they believe the above reasons justify vetting projects for existing marinas. In fact, marina operators will hear more from the principals on January 17 when we meet with them. In the meantime, I enlisted the support of the National Marine Manufacturers Association to help me get in front of the NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver in Washington, D.C.
And did we ever get time with him! Essentially, I flew to D.C. to meet with him for 40 minutes. While that may seem silly (I can tell you my mom was confused as to why I would fly across the country for a relatively short meeting. “Don’t they have telephones?” she asked me), I would say that any salesperson worth their salt would travel around the world to meet with their top customer. If you are selling planes and your customer in Dubai is the only person who needs to see you, there’s no doubt that you will do what it takes to seal the deal.
The time with Oliver could not have gone better. He quickly got up to speed with the specifics, asked a few clarifying questions to his Northwest aide, and then assured us that he would get it fixed. To that, I couldn’t resist but chime in, “Let’s make that your New Year’s Resolution: Get this guidance fixed.” Hey, I couldn’t help myself. I’m a recovering class clown.
Sprinkled throughout the day were meetings with key staffers from the offices of Rep. Derek Kilmer (Democrat – Gig Harbor), Rep. Rick Larsen (Democrat – Everett), and Senator Patty Murray. They had various degrees of “There must be more to this story.” To that, we simply replied, “That may be, which is why we are meeting with Chris Oliver before these meetings.” As positive as the meetings were, there was no spiking of the football. There’s no doubt these issues are complex and will take time to sort out. Lawsuits (and fear of lawsuits) are a powerful force.
Throw in the need to protect salmon and resident orcas, and you can see that there’s no quick fix. On the flip side, if the meeting would have gone poorly, wow, would that have been a long flight home.* While the first two parts of the sales process are in the books (i.e., predisposing the top qualified prospect to our cause and presenting the opportunity to assist us), the follow-up aspect of untangling this monkey-fist knot awaits.
Yes, the trip was quick. The conversations were succinct. The good vibes and positive verbiage were apparent, but let’s see how all of this plays out. As one business owner told me before I left, “Peter, so you know, the future of the marine industry is resting on your shoulders.” Yikes, no pressure. Good thing I have faithful friends like you who are getting to know your elected to help advance our agenda, too.
Speaking of, interested in figuring out who your local elected officials are? You can drop me an email inquiry (Peter@nmta.net) or play around with leg.wa.gov to see who your state senator and two state representatives are. After all, the future of the marine industry is resting on your shoulders too.
*Andre Agassi reveals in his autobiography, “A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.” More on this subject from Psychology Today: https://tinyurl.com/ya9m85fs