At the stroke of midnight Saturday the Stanislaus River Parks are closing.
Ranger Norm Winchester with the Army Corps of Engineers will be among personnel locking gates and switching off timers that would have reopened the locks six hours later at nine developed parks from Knights Ferry to the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers west of Ripon and south of Manteca.
It means an end to rafting for the duration. There are three rafting companies that operate daily out of Knights’ Ferry with weekend rafters averaging between 600 and 800 a day.
The Sacramento District’s 10 recreation park units that also includes New Hogan Lake in Valley Springs stayed open by using temporary funds left over from the previous federal budget year that ended Sept. 30. The Corps is unique among federal agencies as it is funded by individual projects that carry over from year to year. Other agencies lose all funding if it isn’t spent when Oct. 1 rolls around. How long they stay open depends upon the unit’s remaining funds. In the case of the Stanislaus River Parks unit they have money to keep operating through the end of Saturday.
Seventeen rangers and maintenance workers will be placed on non-paid furloughs starting Sunday. All river access points such as Knights Ferry, Orange Blossom, Hawaiian Bar, and McHenry Recreation Area will be closed and off limits. Only two essential personnel will be on the job — the overall director of the unit and the head maintenance person. There are nine developed and seven undeveloped parks along the river.
All public access along 59 miles under the Corps’ control from Goodwin Dam to the San Joaquin River will be closed. The river can still be accessed at Ripon but there will be no rangers available for assistance either in an emergency or otherwise.
When the funding bill didn’t pass, 22 of the district’s 980 employees were immediately furloughed without pay since they were not funded by a specific Department of the Army appropriation.
Among the essential workers that will stay on the job regardless are those who are in charge of dam operations and emergency response readiness.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District provides planning, engineering, project management, environmental restoration and construction services to military and civilian customers in parts of eight western states, including California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming.
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Highway 120 status
Yosemite National Park is closed and the last people who were staying in the park were cleared out by 3 p.m. Thursday.
However, Tioga Road (Highway 120) is open to through traffic headed to Lee Vinning and/or Highway 395 and points beyond. No parking, though, is allowed along Tioga Road.
All national park websites are shut down and no phones are being answered.