The open house of the RV Tiglax, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, is cancelled due to the federal furlough of employees.
Manager of the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge Steve Delehanty announced the cancellation Thursday morning in light of the U.S. federal government shutdown. Congress failed to reach an agreement on the fiscal year 2014’s budget, which began Oct. 1.
The shutdown did not impact the U.S. Postal Service or the U.S Coast Guard in Homer.
There are only three refuge staff remaining on the job. In addition to Delehanty, that is Tiglax Engineer Erik Nelson of Homer and an Adak refuge employee. Nelson’s task in the days ahead is to winterize the Tiglax, the refuge’s research vessel which supports work along thousands of Alaska coastal miles.
Another 26 refuge employees are furloughed until further notice, Delehanty said. This represents the largest sector unemployed for now in Homer.
The Islands and Ocean Visitor Center is closed due to the shutdown, but certain state employees, whose offices are located in the building, continue to work. That includes biologists with the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve.
Catie Bursch, a scientific illustrator and a marine educator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, working at the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve in Homer, said that office remains open in the building. KBRR is a unique hybrid, a partnership between NOAA and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game whose manager is Terry Thompson.
“The building is locked up, but we have (card) keys for getting in and out,” she said.
NOAA, which also shares offices in the building, is likewise shut down. Kris Holdereid, manager of the NOAA-University of Alaska facility at Jakolof Bay, the UAF Kasitsna Bay Laboratory, is closed until further notice. That involves the furlough of three NOAA employees, she said. Only a lab manager is kept on part time to winterize the lab.
This comes at a time when a new mysterious arrival flooded the small bays around Kachemak Bay, a brown sludgy plankton bloom that may be due to Alaska’s inordinately warm summer.
“That’s one of the questions, how the warmer summer impacted the bloom. We’ll be trying to tease that apart from other data,” Holdereid said. For now, she is not allowed even to volunteer her time trying to sort out whether the bloom may carry some harmful impacts on area shellfish and aquatic life.
“It’s unfortunate,” Holdereid said Thursday, on day three of the shutdown. “This is the time of year when we come back from summer field work and begin to piece together information and data to better understand what is happening.”
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