Local impacts on a federal shutdown

10/01/2013 1:26 AM

10/01/2013 11:52 PM

Except for those people who were planning to visit Yosemite National Park in the coming days, the general public in the Central San Joaquin Valley shouldn’t be affected much by a federal shutdown – at least not right away.

All VA hospitals and clinics will remain open to provide services as usual thanks to advanced funding for next year.

The Veterans Health Administration, which operates VA medical centers, announced Monday that "the hospital and all of our clinics will stay open," said Sheryl Grubb, a spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs Central California Health Care System, which operates the VA Hospital in Fresno, area clinics and employs about 1,100 people. "Our funds are appropriated in advance, so we will still continue to serve veterans."

Similarly, Social Security benefits will keep coming, though there likely will be delays in processing new disability applications. So, too, will mail delivery continue, as employees of the U.S. Postal Service are exempt from furloughs, as are active-duty military personnel.

The National Park Service tweeted Monday that all 401 national parks and facilities – including Yosemite – will close in the event of a shutdown. A park service contingency plan stated that all main roads would stay open but visitors centers and other facilities would close.

About 20 percent of the parks 838 employees will be furloughed. Law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and firefighters will remain to keep the park secure, said National Park Service Regional Director Stephanie Burkhart.

On average, 450,000 visitors come to the park in October, or about 15,000 visitors per day. Many come from overseas and have planned their trips several months, if not years, in advance, Burkhart said.

Guests staying in hotels and campgrounds would be given 48 hours to leave the park.

The Wawona and Ahwahnee hotels in Yosemite, managed by DNC Parks and Resorts, will contact guests with reservations and work with those already at the hotel to rebook or to get refunds if the park is closed, said spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro.

The Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst has been fielding phone calls from visitors wondering how the park closure will affect their vacation, said Jarrod Lyman, director of media.

While access to the park will be restricted, there are other back country areas to explore, Lyman said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Sacramento District said Monday afternoon that its projects and recreation parks would temporarily continue or stay open for at least a few days using what remains from the prior year's funding.

Army Corps spokesman Chris Gray-Garcia said the agency will use remaining prior year funding. The corps is unique among federal agencies in that it is funded mostly through individual projects that carry over from year to year. If the lack of an appropriations bill continues for more than a few days, the Sacramento District will continue to evaluate remaining funds and adjust operations accordingly.

"These are important projects to improve safety for our communities and we're going to keep working on them as long as we possibly can," Col. Mike Farrell, the district commander, said in a news release.

Editor's Choice Videos

Join the Discussion

The Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service