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Fed shutdown closes some local offices

Posted: October 2, 2013 - 2:46pm
Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center announces its closure.  Photo provided
Photo provided
Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center announces its closure.

The failure of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate on Monday to pass a continuing resolution funding the federal government has shut down some federal offices in Homer, including the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.

The U.S. Coast Guard is not affected and will continue duties, including search and rescue.

“We expect no impact on essential services and operations,” said Lt. Veronica Colbath, public affairs officer, USCG Juneau. “The maritime community shouldn’t see any impact in services that we provide to the public.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Enforcement also is not affected by the shutdown. The U.S. Post Office in Homer also remains open. 

The Alaska Volcano Observatory, a cooperative program of the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, remains open, though with reduced staff levels because of furloughed federal employees. Forecasts and updates on volcanic activity will continue.

However, these offices or facilities are closed:

• The Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, including offices for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Park Service;

• The R/V Tiglax, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vessel. An open house for the ship from 1-4 p.m. Saturday at the Homer Harbor remains scheduled, but could be canceled if funding is not approved by Thursday (see story, page 2);

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture offices; and

• The NOAA Kasitsna Bay Laboratory.

An empty parking lot Tuesday at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center illustrated the effect of the shutdown. Often full in the summer with cars of visitors and staff, on Tuesday a lone Subaru was in the lot. A sign behind glass at the front entrance informed visitors of the closure and directed them to a Department of Interior website, doi.gov/shutdown, for more information. 

That government website was one of a few available, with many other websites not available. Administrators on government Facebook pages also put up notices the social media sites would not be updated.

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Manager Steve Delehanty will remain on duty, he said Monday. Refuge lands technically are closed, but the shutdown primarily will affect refuges with gated access.

“It’s most unfortunate,” Delehanty said of the partial shutdown.

Offices for the state Kachemak Bay Research Reserve in the Islands and Ocean building are open, but visitors will have to make arrangements for staff to let them into the building by the west entrance.

Capt. Billy Pepper of the Tiglax said on Monday that in anticipation of the shutdown, crew prepared the vessel, with automated phone alarm systems in place that would route to Delehanty if an emergency developed.

The impasse in Congress came about over a bill sent by the House to the Senate that included provisions for delaying funding for one year of the Affordable Care Act. The Senate rejected those provisions.

Some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as enrolling in health insurance programs offered by state or federal exchanges, went into effect on Tuesday. Some people who qualify also can get government-subsidized health insurance.

Alaska Congressman Don Young, R-Alaska, who voted for the House bill funding the government, said in a statement that essential services such as military pay, Social Security and Medicare checks, VA benefits and access to VA medical facilities, unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicaid would continue. The shutdown also would affect requests for processing gun permits, Young said. Young said he hoped the House and Senate would go to a Conference Committee to resolve its differences.

“It is my hope that the Senate will come to the table as soon as possible, negotiate in good faith, and maybe even suggest a new solution, instead of tabling the House’s ideas along party-line votes,” Young said.

Young’s office remains open, he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also opposes the Affordable Care Act.

“As unworkable and bad as she believes the bill is, she understands that a government shutdown means lost paychecks for gas, rent and grocery money for the thousands of Alaskans who work for the federal government,” her office said in a press release. “It also impacts vital services for our veterans, seniors, children and disabled — and creates a harmful ripple effect on the Alaskan economy.”

In a letter to federal workers, President Obama criticized Congress for failing to pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year on Tuesday and the House for attaching what he called “highly controversial and partisan measures.”

“This shutdown was completely preventable. It should not have happened,” Obama said. “I want you to know that I will keep working to get Congress to reopen the government, restart vital services that the American people depend on, and allow public servants who have been sent home to return to work.”

As of Wednesday morning, the government had not been funded. According to the New York Times, Obama invited House and Senate leaders from both parties to urge the passing of measures to fund the government and increase the national debt limit.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.

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Reality Bites
Reality Bites 10/03/13 - 09:42 am
Tea Party should accept legislative process

If the GOP is so concerned about violations of the Constitution and serving the will of the people, why aren't the holding the debt ceiling hostage over the NSA spying?

Why isn't the GOP introducing legislation to repeal the Patriot Act and defund the NSA since that is actually how the government works. See Civics 101.

If the GOP wants to repeal Obamacare they can do so with legislation. Oh that's right, they already tried that.

Obamacare was passed in congress in 2010. Since then the GOP tried to repeal Obamacare 40+ times...and they failed.

They then took it to the supreme court, and they lost.

It is extremely immature and the sign of a poor loser to no be able to accept losing. These legislators need to go back to their civics lessons and learn how our government works. They claim to care so much about our Democracy and they don't even get how legislation is passed? And what happens when you sometimes lose...you just deal with it.

As Harry Reid said, most Democrats did not support the Iraq war, hated the killing of innocents and incredible wasteful spending...but they did not shut down the government to get their way. They went through the legislative process and accepted it.

And speaking of the Iraq war, how can these hypocrites who spent trillions attacking innocent nations, killing millions...claim to care about the national debt and proclaim themselves pro life? It's a head scratcher.

Never before has the Congress held up the debt ceiling because a few uneducated immature people in denial didn't get their way. That is not how government works.

The idea that the GOP is blaming it on Obama is just ridiculously laughable, but that's what Limbaugh and the corporate (liberal, my arse!) media keeps saying so keep on parroting those absurd talking points. It illustrates your mentality quite well.

kearbear 10/03/13 - 02:18 pm
If your head needs scratching

If your head needs scratching because it's so itchy, I hope you weren't planning on seeing a Doctor through insurance purchased on the Government exchange. Yikes, is anyone there?

Maybe you do not realize it, but the Congress has the power of the purse. It is determined by the Congress which programs will be funded. Hopefully, we won't continue to fund another zombie government bait and switch program. Obamacare is not cheap, not available, and not caring. Maybe people need an "Obamaphone" to get someone to talk to them.

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