Besides the halt on Growler mitigation negotiations, one bathroom facility closure seems to be the most direct impact of the partial federal government shutdown on Whidbey Island so far.
However, if it lasts much longer there will be programs and projects affected, according to local officials. Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve has parcels of land owned and operated by the National Park Service and its employees are on furlough. The park service decided to close the bathroom facility at the popular Ebey’s Landing bluff trailhead because of the lack of staff to maintain it.
“I know that it’s an inconvenience and a hardship for people,” said Kristin Griffin, reserve manager with Ebey’s Trust Board. “It’s not something that our office is able to change.”
The trust board offices are open because its staff isn’t composed of federal employees. But Griffin said the reserve will start to feel the effects if NPS doesn’t come back to work soon.
Permits can’t be issued for events on national public lands and there isn’t anyone to maintain properties such as the Ferry House, Pratt Sheep Barn, the Ebey House and Reuble Farmstead.
The reserve’s website is maintained by the park service, so it isn’t being updated, which means the distribution of information is limited.
“We are going to have to find an alternate way to provide information and applications for the Trust Board’s Ebey’s Forever Grant Program,” Griffin said.
The program funds preservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings within the reserve.
Within county government, most budgets remain unaffected so far, but it isn’t exactly clear what the impact will be if the shutdown continues.
Island County receives federal funding for its public health, human services and public works departments. Public Works Director Bill Oakes said construction projects will only be impacted if the shutdown lasts until construction season, which is a few months out.
Human services programs haven’t been affected yet, according to department head Jackie Henderson.
She hasn’t heard yet whether or not federal grants that come to the county through the state will be impacted.
“It is not affecting us right now,” Henderson said. “Down the road, I’m not sure.”
Public Health Director Keith Higman said that federal dollars that flow into his programs were already allocated through the state, so he isn’t feeling the strain. Information provided by the Washington State Association of Counties said the state Department of Health’s services won’t be impacted for the first four weeks.
However, without federal reimbursement there’s a potential for reduction in food for the Women, Infants and Children program, which serves a number of families in Island County. Family planning and maternal and child health funding could also be reduced, the report states.
There are no anticipated impacts to food stamp programs, disability services and Social Security.
The partial shutdown began on Dec. 22 and is on-track to become the longest-ever shutdown in U.S. history, surpassing the previous record of 21 days in 1995 and beginning of 1996.