Government shutdown hits ground

Water planning, land use implications foreseen at county level

As the federal government shutdown stretches into its second week, its far-reaching impacts are becoming increasingly more apparent.

While much of the attention has been concentrated at how the shutdown affects operations at the federal level, the closure of federal agencies can have effects on county and local governments.

Hood River County Administrator David Meriwether sent out an email last week to department heads to see what the impact has been at the county level thus far.

Some of the headaches have been minor. At HRC Public Works, Director Mikel Diwan reported that “the Powerdale Land Action Committee was planning on meeting with a National Parks planner — for which a grant was approved — on the 15th, but then they shut down.” He added, however, that the planner informed him he “will be showing up anyway on his own time and just not get paid.”

At Budget and Finance, director Sandi Borrowy wrote she had been “trying to find an answer on how to draw down some federal funds on one of our programs.” When she emailed the contact person with the question, all she received was an auto-reply that “due to the shut down there would be no information response until they were back at work.”

At the Planning Department, the effects have been felt more directly. Director Mike Benedict wrote that the furloughing of Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area Forest Service employees “will hold up any land use applications in the National Scenic Area because they have to review certain parts of applications.”

The shutdown could also have financial implications for the department.

“The Water Planning Group has a $250,000 grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation; the Bureau is doing some very complex modeling for us. They are all non essential personnel and are on furlough, so the modeling stops for as long as they are out,” he explained in an email. “That also puts us in a bind with our Oregon WRD (Water Resources Department) grant of $250,000; that grant has a 10-percent holdback until such time that we supply them with the final grant report.”

Benedict said that if the shutdown continues and the Bureau of Reclamation personnel remain furloughed, the modeling won’t get done, which means the grant will be delayed and cause a “$25,000-hit in the budget,” due to the 10-percent holdback.

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