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Government shutdown impacts local agencies

 

Barricades close off Crescent Bay, part of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation area. — Roger Lucas photo

The latest failure of Congress to compromise has shuttered two local branches of federal agencies but not affected operations at Grand Coulee Dam.

The federal government went into shutdown mode Tuesday as the U. S. Senate and the House of Representatives failed to compromise on a continuing resolution that would allow the government to pay the bills already spent and approved by Congress.

Locally, barricades and recorded messages greeted many who tried to contact federal agencies or receive information on the government shutdown Tuesday.

“Because of the shutdown of the federal government caused by the lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service (NPS) has closed all 401 national parks, including Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area,” a press release sent Tuesday said.

That means that the 22 boat launches maintained by the park service on the lake are off limits, as are other facilities. Spring Canyon and even the entire Crescent Bay area are closed off. All visitor facilities, including Fort Spokane Visitor Center, Kettle Falls Information Center, campgrounds and roads – except for Highway 25, a thru way – are closed. The park will remain closed until the government reopens.

Park Superintendent Dan Foster said that “park visitors in all overnight campgrounds will be given until [3 p.m.] on Thursday, October 3 to make other arrangements and leave the park.”

Foster said the shutdown will likely turn away about 6,000 visitors each day of the shutdown and cost Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area about $512 a day in fees not collected.

Forty-four employees are on furlough because of the shutdown and another 20 concessions employees are similarly affected, Foster said. Some 14 employees remain on duty, providing security and emergency services.

Nationally, the shutdown is expected to turn away 715,000 visitors a day and cost NPS about $450,000 a day in lost revenues.

The much larger impact, says NPS, will hit its “gateway communities” that see $76 million per day in total sales from visitor spending that is lost during a government shutdown.

Locally, the economic impacts from visitor spending, federal jobs created, and jobs created in the local market supporting local tourism are estimated to be over $40 million a year generated in the communities around Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, the release said.

At the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Nespelem, a recorded voice stated that the BIA was under government shutdown, and the caller was asked to leave a name and phone number so the call could be returned when workers returned to their jobs.

A page on the shutdown at the Department of Interior website states that some BIA services will remain operational, such as law enforcement and fire fighting, but that others would be ceased, including “Disbursement of tribal funds for tribal operations including responding to tribal government requests.”

At the Bureau of Reclamation’s Grand Coulee Dam, the Visitor Center was open and running 9-5 daily, with no shutdown.

Public Affairs Officer Lynne Brougher said that all 430 government workers were on the job Tuesday.

A spokesperson in the administration office stated that project employees were exempt from the shutdown because they were funded through the Bonneville Power Administration, not the general appropriations budget. BPA is a federal nonprofit agency that is self-funded and covers its costs by selling products and services, which includes about a third of all the electricity used in the Pacific Northwest.

 

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