Hanford employees to report to work regardless of shutdown

April 7, 2011 

Employees will report to work as usual Monday at the Hanford nuclear reservation and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, even if the federal government shuts down.

But visitors can expect the entrance gates at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks to be locked.

Hanford employees were told in a memo Wednesday, “In the unlikely event of a lapse in appropriation, federal and contractor employees are to report to work as usual,” “Unless we are directed differently, our plan is to utilize carryover dollars until funding is exhausted.”

PNNL in Richland plans to use carryover money from previous years, plus new unspent money already received for this year, to continue operating.

“The president and I both know that the uncertainty of the current situation puts federal employees in a difficult position,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a memo sent Wednesday to DOE employees.

Depending on how long a federal shutdown might last, some DOE employees eventually could be furloughed, he indicated. Federal employees can learn more about general contingency planning for possible furloughs, including whether or when they might be paid, at www.opm.gov/furlough2011.

However, Chu emphasized there will be no DOE employee furloughs early next week.

The Richland Federal Building will remain open as usual next week.

The Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex would be closed to the public starting Saturday, although some essential personnel would continue to work. The complex includes the Hanford Reach National Monument, plus the McNary, Cold Springs, Umatilla, Toppenish, Columbia, Saddle Mountain, Conboy Lake and McKay Creek national wildlife refuges.

The public has been invited to the McNary National Refuge for an Earth Day cleanup morning Saturday, but that is expected to be canceled if the federal government shuts down.

Statewide, visitors using overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds in National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management areas will be notified and given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements. That means the National Park Inn at Mount Rainier would be shut down as well.

A limited number of employees needed to protect life and property on public lands, such as law enforcement, emergency services and fire-fighting personnel, will be exempt from any furlough.

Lindsay Bartsh, associate director of media relations for the National Parks Conservation Association, said, “We’re especially concerned about the impact on local communities and businesses who depend on the tourism surrounding national park sites.” “This time, it could mean an economic loss of more than $30 million daily.”

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