Shutdown: Hanford cleanup continues, rec areas close

Tri-City HeraldOctober 1, 2013 

The nuclear waste vitrification plant at Hanford.

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE

The White Bluffs boat launch on the Columbia River will close today in the midst of the salmon fishing season because the federal government is shut down.

All of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mid-Columbia refuges also will close, including the popular boat launch, said Sue McDonald, visitor services manager of the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

However, most other federal workers will continue to operate as usual in the Mid-Columbia, at least initially.

Mail will be delivered, unemployment benefits will be paid and Social Security payments will be made.

Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory workers, totaling more than 8,000 people, will report to work as usual today.

The Department of Energy national laboratory in Richland will continue to operate using unspent money from previous years in the event of a federal shutdown, said PNNL spokesman Greg Koller.

Workers planning to travel have been advised to make sure meetings and conferences have not been canceled and that other participants still plan to attend, he said.

DOE will continue to operate for a short time during the shutdown and a lapse in congressional appropriations, DOE said in a prepared statement. The amount of time will vary by program.

Contractor and DOE workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation have been told to report to work as usual today, but little information was released Monday about Hanford plans.

At the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, most of the staff is expected to be furloughed, or told to stay home. Employees who provide law enforcement on the refuges will continue to work, however.

Employees were making signs Friday to post at road entries and gates to close the refuges. That included the vehicle access to the White Bluffs boat launch.

The refuge complex headquartered in Burbank includes the Hanford Reach National Monument and its Saddle Mountain Wildlife Refuge. Also closed will be the Columbia, McNary, Umatilla, Toppenish, Cold Springs, McKay Creek and Conboy Lake national wildlife refuges.

The celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week on Saturdayoct 5 at the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge — with kayaking, bird banding and wildlife viewing planned — was canceled Tuesday morning.

The Walla Walla District of the Army Corps of Engineers has told its 849 employees to report to work as usual during the shutdown, and the district will continue to operate until money from the fiscal year that ended Monday is exhausted.

The public will see a reduction in services, although the Corps still was sorting through its multiple and varied operations Monday to make plans.

Campgrounds and day use recreational facilities will be closed or not supported with services, said Joe Saxon, Corps spokesman.

Visitor centers at dams also will be closed.

Rangers might not be available to patrol trails or other areas open to the public. However, Corps parks that are leased will remain open.

Commercial and recreational vessels still could lock past the Corps’ dams and, at least initially, vehicles also could cross the dams.

Hydropower operations will continue and flood damage reduction and emergency response activities will not be interrupted, Saxon said.

The Bureau of Land Management is suspending most activities on its land, including Juniper Dunes in Franklin County.

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