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Government Shutdown Averted: Hawai’i Impacts

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   April 8th, 2011 · No Disqus Comments · Featured, Maui News

By Wendy Osher

Haleakala Visitor Center, file photo by Wendy Osher.

(Update: 8:29 p.m. 4/8/11)

Congress reached a short-term budget agreement late tonight, averting a government shutdown that would have resulted in the furlough of 800,000 federal workers across the nation.

“I am relieved that we were able to reach a compromise to fund the federal government and prevent a disruption of services to millions of Americans,” said U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawai’i.

Preparations were being made here on Maui earlier today to prepare for a potential worst-case scenario. An impasse would have resulted in the closure of Haleakala National Park where a total of 97 workers are employed in the Kipahulu and summit districts.

“A government shutdown would have severe consequences for our federal workers, our military, and their families,” said Akaka. “Our hard-working Hawaii residents and valued visitors can continue to rely upon critical government services,” he said.

Akaka said he was also pleased that the agreement did not come at the expense of womens’ health and environmental protection.

“I look forward to reviewing the details of the long-term compromise,” said Akaka.

(Update: 4: 39 p.m. 4/8/11)

A budget deal agreement has been reached, that according to media reports out of CNN and C-SPAN2. The tentative agreement is now up for a vote in Congress. The proposed deal, if approved, would reportedly keep the government running through part of next week with the framework for a funding plan proposed for the next six months, according to CNN.

(Update: 12:06 p.m. 4/8/11)

Officials at Haleakala National Park on Maui are making preparations should a government shutdown go into effect later today. They are among the 800,000 federal workers who would be directly impacted if budget issues in Congress remain unresolved by a midnight deadline on the East Coast (6 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time).

“We remain hopeful that the Federal Government will not shut down, but we are preparing in case that happens,” said Kuhea Paracuelles, one of 97 people currently employed by the National Park Service (NPS) on Maui.

The park is the only National Park on Maui and receives an average of 5,000 daily visitors on a given day.

Paracuelles said that should a shutdown happen, all NPS employees would be furloughed, with the exception of a limited number of employees needed to secure the parks. Also exempt from the shutdown would be essential service employees that includes those in the department’s law enforcement, emergency services, and firefighting divisions.

In the event of a shutdown, Haleakala National Park, and all visitor facilities and services, managed by the park would be closed. All scheduled government and permitted events would be cancelled or postponed. “Visitors using overnight lodging or campgrounds would be given 48 hours to vacate those facilities,” said Paracuelles.

In the event of a shutdown, Crater Road inside the Park summit district will remain accessible for non-NPS agencies operating at the summit as a thru-way. That means workers who need to access the telescopes and Science City facilities would still be able to use the road to get to work. Highway 31, the Piilani Highway, which passes through the Kipahulu district of the Park would remain open as a thru-way as well.

The NPS is currently scheduled to host three meetings next week in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration to gather public input on the proposed Air Tour Management Plan for commercial air tours in and around Haleakala National Park. The meetings will go on as planned if a shutdown is averted. If a shutdown occurs, and continues into the April 12-14 meeting dates, the meetings would have to be rescheduled.

Additional information will be released pending the outcome of legislative budget discussions.

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