Limited impact on North Coast from government shutdown

A sign at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park warns visitors of limited services available during the government shutdown.

The federal government shutdown had limited impact in Clatsop County.

The government shut down at midnight Friday after Congress and President Donald Trump were unable to agree on a short-term budget deal. During shutdowns, some government employees are placed on temporary unpaid leave. No federal employees receive paychecks until Congress passes a funding bill.

In Clatsop County, essential services like distributing Social Security checks and veteran’s benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, the military and the U.S. Postal Service continued. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continued to issue weather warnings.

Local Coast Guard officials did not specify how the shutdown affected internal operations. Essential functions were not be impacted, however.

“It won’t stop us from launching on a search-and-rescue mission or oil spill or something like that,” Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read said.

The shutdown did affect national parks and museums, including Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Jon Burpee, the park’s superintendent, was the only employee working as of Saturday. He said about 15 park employees were furloughed. No visitor services, educational programming, maintenance and janitorial work was available.

January is one of the slowest times of the year for the park, Burpee said, so few camping reservations were disrupted. The shutdown canceled “Cocoa and Coho” on Saturday, an event where people plant and help rehabilitate wetlands around the park for salmon habitat, Burpee said.

Trails remained open.

“The goal is to keep as much access as possible while still protecting the sensitive cultural and natural stuff,” he said. “Without our regular staff, we don’t have the way to get out the word like usual if there was a high wind event or something. Usually we close trails if there is wind sustained at 25 mph, but we won’t have staff to issue that warning. We just want people to know there won’t be as many services as usual.”

The government has officially shut down 18 times, according to the Associated Press. The most recent shutdown was in 2013, lasting 16 days and affecting 850,000 federal workers.

Burpee said he hopes the park can get back to what he considers essential work: educating visitors.

“During the last go around, the terms were essential and nonessential personnel. Now it’s excepted and nonexcepted, which I think is a better distinction because each one of these people are essential for the running of this park,” he said.

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