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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Government shutdown: Hatchery closed, airport open, White Mountains leaves still peep-able

When he got to work on Monday, the manager of the Nashua National Fish Hatchery gave his employees the best pep talk he could muster.

“It could be worse,” Kyle Flanery told his crew, preparing for the federal government shutdown that took effect at midnight. ...

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When he got to work on Monday, the manager of the Nashua National Fish Hatchery gave his employees the best pep talk he could muster.

“It could be worse,” Kyle Flanery told his crew, preparing for the federal government shutdown that took effect at midnight.

All three full-time employees of the fish hatchery – and another temporary worker who helps keep hundreds of Atlantic salmon alive – received orders to stay home from work on Tuesday.

The staff will remain on furlough until Congress and the president hash out a plan to fund the government.

Unfortunately, fish don’t take a day off. And with no one available to keep the hatchery on Broad Street running, Flanery decided to return to work Tuesday without pay.

“I certainly need to do what’s best for the fish,” he said.

The government shutdown came at one of the worst times of the year for the hatchery, which was scheduled to begin transferring about 1,500 fish to New Hampshire Fish and Game Department on Tuesday. The fish are destined to reach the Merrimack River, where fishermen can catch and release them during the fall.

“It’s always hard when you’re dealing with live animals,” Flanery said. “It’s like working on a farm and having somebody tell you have to shut down a farm.”

The hatchery is one of thousands of federally-funded programs grinding to a halt today as the first government shutdown in 17 years goes into effect.

The state of New Hampshire is still funding its own agencies, but federal funding is the lifeblood of dozens of services within the state.

“The state of New Hampshire will continue to operate, carrying out the normal functions of state government,” Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a prepared statement, “although there may be some disruption in individual programs that are not yet funded.”

One major outdoor attraction in New Hampshire that relies on federal funding is the White Mountain National Forest, which is staffed by the U.S. Forest Service.

“In terms of tourism, it’s part of our scenic beauty,” said Tai Freligh, communications manager at the state Division of Travel and Tourism Development. “It’s opportunities for people to hike and go camping and that sort of thing.”

Approximately 120 federal employees who staff White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine would be furloughed starting Tuesday afternoon.

Forest Service spokeswoman Colleen Mainville said about 95 percent of the workforce were to be sent home – including office administrators, people who maintain trails, and janitors who clean the restrooms in visitor information centers.

Unlike a national park, the forest isn’t gated, so it will remain open for visitors, although the information center will probably be closed and some outhouses and isolated restrooms may have to be shut, Mainville said.

“The White Mountains will be open for leaf peeping,” she said.

Nashua Municipal Airport also relies on some federal funding, notably the budget for the control tower.

Airport manager Stephen Bourque said air traffic control services have been exempted from the government shutdown, although it’s still unclear whether Congress will be willing to fund the tower in future budgets.

Constituents hoping to reach New Hampshire’s U.S. senators and representatives will also be out of luck today if they visit district offices around the state.

A call to the Nashua office of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte on Tuesday morning was forwarded to her office in Washington, D.C., where an intern picked up the phone.

“There’s a couple people still here, but again, we’re just running under essential staff,” he said.

An email to a staffer for U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, prompted an automatic reply urging people to contact Kuster’s Concord office or visit her congressional website.

“Please know that our office has temporarily reduced staffing levels and will return to normal operations once the federal government shutdown ends,” reads the email from Jake Berry. “As such, I am currently out of the office and unable to access email. Congresswoman Kuster remains committed to serving her constituents in this time of uncertainty, though response times will be delayed.”

The federal court in Concord remained open Tuesday, and operations there are likely to continue uninterrupted until at least Oct. 10. However, if no agreement is reached on the federal budget, the judiciary will be forced to “reassess its situation” after 10 days, according to an announcement posted to the court’s website.

U.S. Attorney John Kacavas said he was forced to furlough approximately one third of his staff, including assistants in the criminal and civil divisions.

Since the Department of Justice is charged with protecting life and property, Kacavas said there’s little chance the entire U.S. attorney’s office would shut down. But with furloughs in effect, Kacavas said his office is implementing a contingency plan to furlough attorneys when they’re not scheduled to appear in court.

“It’s going to be a juggling operation,” he said.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).