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Corps gets ready to shut down lake areas / October 02, 2013
With the federal government in shutdown mode and Congress in turmoil over the budget, many in Southside Virginia — from farmers to anglers, low-income families to local governments — will feel the effects.

It will take most federal agencies between two and three days to implement shutdown plans, which have been in the works for the last several weeks.

The first to go will be the 800,000 federal workers nationwide whose jobs are deemed not “critical,” or who are not involved in implementing their agency’s shutdown plans.

Ann Johnson, Chief of Public Affairs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District — operators of John H. Kerr Dam and power station and a number of facilities around Buggs Island Lake — said the Corps has enough money to fund operations through Saturday, Oct. 4. Since most employees do not work on weekends, however, the agency effectively will begin its shutdown plan Friday evening.

The impact: Campers will be forced to leave Corps campgrounds regardless of the duration of their reservation. Boat ramps will be shuttered, and all but ten USACE workers in Mecklenburg County will be furloughed. The ten lucky enough to keep their job during the shutdown are responsible for operations at the dam and power plant — including eight employees, the reservoir manager, and the natural resources manager.

Campers still at the parks on Friday will have until 8 p.m. Saturday to vacate the grounds. Those whose reservations continue past Saturday are entitled to a refund, said Johnson, which can be obtained by calling the USACE reservations toll free number at 1-888-448-1474. Most likely though, that phone line will ring unanswered during the shutdown since the person tasked with handling reservations is on furlough.

Johnson said closing the boat ramps is proving “a bit trickier.” Still, the current plan is to padlock these facilities at the end of the day on Friday. On a positive note, if there is one, Bobbie Whitlow at Bobcat’s Lake Country Tackle Unlimited said as far as he knew, “there are no fishing tournaments [scheduled on the lake] for the next week or two.”

Campgrounds and boat ramp sites set to close on Friday include North Bend Park, Tailrace Park, Palmer Point, Ivy Hill Park, Island Creek Park, Grassy Creek Park, Longwood Park, Buffalo Park, Staunton View Park, Bluestone boat ramp, Rudd’s Creek, Eagle Point boat ramp and Eastland Creek boat ramp.

Other local USACE facilities closing on Friday are the USACE Visitor Assistance Center, Tanner Environmental Education Center, Liberty Hill fishing access and trail, and Buffalo Springs.

Johnson said several parks, marinas and boat ramps operated either by a state agency or local proprietors will be unaffected by the shutdown. These include: Steele Creek Marina, Hibernia Park, Henderson Point Park, Clarksville Marina, the Clover boat ramp at the Staunton (Roanoke) River, Kimball Point Park, Bullocksville Park, County Line Park, Satterwhite Point Park and J.C. Cooper Campground, Satterwhite Point Marina, Williamsboro Wayside fishing access, Flemington Road landing, Nutbush Creek Park, Staunton River State Park, Occoneechee State Park, Hyco boat ramp and Willow Grove Marina.

Others affected: Women with infants and children enrolled in the WIC program will have to forego this support while the shutdown drags on due to a lack of funds, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the government office overseeing the shutdown. This program, also known the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children.

School lunches and breakfasts will continue to be served. Because these programs are paid from Title 1 monies (federal dollars used to fund programs for minority and economically disadvantaged students), schools may be left waiting for reimbursement.

Food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will continue untouched for now. However, earlier this week SNAP notified local recipients that it expects some funding to run out as of the beginning of November resulting in reduced payments to program participants.

Those receiving Social Security and Medicare payments should see their payments continue as scheduled.

Tax filers facing an October 15 filing deadline must still file their returns by that date even though most IRS workers are furloughed. But, don’t expect to have filing questions answered or online submissions acknowledged. The IRS, as part of its shutdown, will is shutting down its “help desk.”

Local farmers using the services of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will have to wait until after the shutdown to learn if they qualify for a microloan or to receive disaster relief payments. All existing classes, meetings, lectures, most often accessed by new, small or minority farmers are canceled. In fact, the local office is closing its doors for the duration of the shutdown since none of the local employees are involved in work deemed critical for that agency.

The only FSA workers excepted from the furlough are those involved with emergency and natural disasters response, and emergency and defense preparedness.

Even local governments will feel the sting of this shutdown. The US Department of Agriculture, which oversees community development block grant (CDBG) monies and rural development loans, says to expect delays in payments and urges communities not to make any draw-down on approved funds for ongoing projects. In Chase City, the Third Street project as well as the Chase City sewer improvement project are being paid for with USDA monies.

Both Town Manager Ricky Reese and County Administrator Wayne Carter (Mecklenburg currently has one approved project relying on CDBG monies, the Tiny Road project) are awaiting official word from the state as to when they can expect funding to be restored.

Mail service will continue without interruption since the United States Postal Services is considered an independent agency. And all Veterans Administration medical facilities will remain open for inpatient and outpatient care. However, benefits programs overseen by the VA will probably be affected, but to what extent was unclear at press time.

As of now, there is no end in sight for the shutdown. In a statement released by Congressman Robert Hurt (VA-5) just before the shutdown, he said, “It is my hope that we will be able to find agreement in avoiding a shutdown, and we will continue to work in good-faith to achieve that end.” On Tuesday morning however, Caroline Califf, the Congressman’s press contact, said the office had no word on when or if the stalemate would end.

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Closing boat ramps? Why would anyone need the federal government operating a driveway into the water. People cannot be trusted to back a boat into the water? What a joke. This shutdown is nothing but a show to make sure all the good little sheep still know who their shepherd is.


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