Chesterton Tribune


Sequestration may have minimal visible effect on Dunes National Lakeshore

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Federal budget cuts mandated last week under sequestration are looking—at this point—to have no obvious impact, so far as the public goes, on services this year at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

National Park Service (NPS) spokesman Bruce Rowe told the Chesterton Tribune today that, “for the most part,” the effects of a 5-percent budget-cut plan formally approved by the U.S. Department of Interior will be “invisible.”

The one exception: the walk-in or “primitive” sites at Dunewood Campground will be closed this year, although not those sites accessible by vehicles.

In all other respects, Rowe said, activities and programs at the National Lakeshore are likely, right now, to remain unaffected, including the hiring of seasonal employees and guarded swimming at West Beach. “We have no plans to close public areas and there will be no furloughs of NPS employees.”

Savings accrued through the 5-percent cut—amounting to $450,000 of the National Lakeshore’s budget—will be made in a number of ways, Rowe said:

•Fully $300,000 will be saved by deferring or canceling the letting of non-essential government contracts.

•Non-emergency overtime will be cut.

•Non-essential travel—mostly for training purposes—will be cut.

•The replacement of smaller pieces of equipment—like lawn mowers and weed wackers—will be deferred.

•Printing projects will be cut. There will be no National Lakeshore calendar this year, while the planned installation of some directional and wayfaring signage will be canceled.

•Several vehicles leased from the Government Services Administration will be returned to the GSA.

On the other hand, the so-called “primitive” sites at the Dunewood Campground—accounting for around a third of the facility—will be closed this year, mostly to reduce the number of ranger call-outs there. “Those sites are a little more removed from the drive-in ones,” Rowe said, and tend to attract the most complaints, for instance, of underage drinking.

The National Lakeshore is more fortunate than other national parks, Rowe noted, inasmuch as less than 80 percent of its annual budget goes to salaries. That fact may permit the National Lakeshore to weather sequestration without employee furloughs.

Rowe did say that the 5-percent cuts made through this plan are over and above 5-percent cuts made in the National Lakeshore’s budget since 2010.

“We’re going to keep doing our job, keep the park open to visitors, and keep it protected,” Rowe said.

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Meanwhile, how exactly sequestration will affect federal law enforcement in Northwest Indiana is presently unclear.

Mary Hatton, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana, told the Tribune that all U.S. attorneys’ offices in the country will be affected but that they will be “affected differently by the percentage of cuts.”

Currently, however, Hatton said that her officer “has no specifics on those cuts.”

“We were issued the letter warning of a possible furlough but there were no details,” Hatton said.

Hatton did say that, before implementing furloughs, the government must give employees 30 days’ notice. “But other than that we don’t know anything and don’t expect to for the time being.”



Posted 3/4/2013