Thurmond Lake timber sales delay shutdown budget effects

 

Although some Army Corps of Engineers sites are furloughing workers, a rainy year and a bountiful timber harvest have helped Thurmond Lake escape the harshest effects of the government shutdown – at least for now.

“We don’t have anything closed, and haven’t had to furlough anyone – yet,” said Scott Hyatt, the operations project manager. “We can credit, or blame, the rain this summer for that.”

Timber revenues create revenues for the federal project that are separate from congressional appropriations. Typically, such extra revenues are $1 million to $1.5 million per year.

“The rains this year kept the loggers out of the woods from May into August,” Hyatt said, meaning that the first timber checks since spring were delayed until September, when about $300,000 came in. “Normally, that money is used to prepare sites for replanting, and for our wildlife management program, but instead I’m running the project on that, along with a small amount of ‘carryout’ we had in some other accounts.”

Officials estimate the project’s operations can remain fully staffed until the week after Columbus Day, but furloughs and closures could commence around Oct. 19 if the government shutdown persists.

The project’s maintenance and operations service contract, which includes 23 jobs, is also funded until that date, Hyatt said.

Corps campgrounds that are closed are following the project’s annual schedule and are not affected by the government shutdown.

Two other projects on the Savannah River – Hartwell and Russell – have already closed facilities and furloughed some workers. Hartwell’s visitors center is closed until further notice, said corps spokesman Billy Birdwell of the Savannah District office.

As of Tuesday, Birdwell said, about 130 of the district’s 799 civilian employees were furloughed.

Private contractors have not been affected as much as federal employees.

“Contractors do work for us, but in many cases the money is appropriated and set aside in advance to pay for those contracts,” Birdwell said.

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