U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages to avoid furloughs

TRAIL — A combination of factors that include less reliance on congressional appropriations means the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has so far sidestepped furloughs at its Rogue River Basin operations during the government shutdown.

About half of its nearly $4.5 million operating and maintenance budget for the Rogue Basin project comes from the Bonneville Power Administration, thanks to electrical power generated for the BPA at Lost Creek dam on the Rogue River near Trail.

That pot of money pays for all the operations and maintenance of the dam's powerhouse, said Jim Buck, the Corps operations manager there.

Also, pockets of recreation-generated funds help to continue paying portions of some employees' jobs, Buck said.

"That's why, to date, I haven't had to furlough anybody," Buck said. "But if this progresses on, I might have to by the 21st."

One of the 22 full-time positions is open, Buck said, and two employees have been on annual leave, helping reduce the financial stress while the government remains at a budgetary impasse.

The Corps officially has closed access to its facilities and grounds around Lost Creek and Applegate reservoirs as well as its land holdings in the Elk Creek Basin near Shady Cove, where the Corps originally planned to build the scrapped Elk Creek Dam.

The ramps at Stewart State Park remain open at Lost Creek because those are operated by the Oregon State Parks Department. The Forest Service manages the recreational facilities at Applegate Lake, where ramps have been closed and gated since the shutdown began Oct. 1.

Contractors, however, have continued work on a project to increase recreation access to the former Elk Creek lands because that project was funded through last fiscal year's budget and is ongoing now because of delays, Buck said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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