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Philpott Lake closing as result of shutdown
Friday, October 11, 2013
By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' recreational park at Philpott Lake closed to visitors at 8 p.m. Thursday as a direct result of the partial government shutdown, according to Craig “Rocky” Rockwell, operations project manager at the lake.
Overnight campers were being allowed to stay until noon today, he said.
Parts of Philpott Lake are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Rockwell said that while many federal agencies did not have the funds necessary to continue operation during the shutdown, which began Oct. 1, Philpott had carryover funds that allowed it to do so.
Rockwell said the hope had been to continue operations until the shutdown’s end, but “we’ve done everything we can” and with no end to the shutdown in sight, “we just can’t hold out anymore.”
The visitor’s center, overlook and other areas are closed until further notice, he said. There will be no boat use or camping allowed. However, people will be able to walk the trails around the lake, he said.
The closing will not include Philpott Dam’s operations, Rockwell said.
“The dam will continue to operate. We’ll have a skeleton crew in the powerhouse making sure we’re still able to meet our power and flood control mission.”
One park ranger and one manager will remain on the job at Philpott Lake “to keep things from completely falling apart while we’re out on furlough,” Rockwell said.
He did not say if or when those two employees will be paid.
The shutdown was prompted when Congress failed to pass a spending bill due to disagreements over the president’s health care law. In Washington on Thursday, negotiations continued on ending the shutdown and raising the nation’s debt limit, but no resolution appeared in sight, according to Associated Press reports.
If the shutdown ends within the next week or so, Rockwell said, he and his staff will not lose much ground. However, each additional day of the shutdown “puts us that much farther behind. Fortunately, our team is pretty resilient.”
Rockwell said the furlough has been a disappointment to his team. Several employees, in fact, asked if they could work for free until the shutdown ends.
“We’ve got a team that very much enjoys their work,” Rockwell said. “It’s pretty neat when you’ve got a staff that wants to volunteer their time when they can’t get paid.”
Employees are not allowed to work on a volunteer basis, he said.