Sunrise viewing, park operations back after spending bill passes

Haleakala National Park resumed sunrise viewing and federal employees went back to work after Congress voted to reopen the government Monday.

The Senate passed a short-term spending bill, 81-18, with plenty of bipartisan support, after the Republican leadership agreed to discuss action for “Dreamers,” border security and military spending. Following House approval, President Donald Trump signed the measure late Monday.

“While we have a long road ahead, I’m hopeful Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans will honor their commitment, negotiate in good faith and work with us to find a solution that protects the young immigrants fighting for the American Dream and the only home they know,” said Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who voted in favor of the agreement.

The stopgap spending measure will keep the government open until Feb. 8.

The three-day shutdown temporarily halted “nonessential” services nationwide. On Maui that meant the post office continued its services uninterrupted, but national parks and refuges closed their visitor centers.

Haleakala closed during sunrise, one of the park’s most popular draws, on Sunday and Monday. All park roads, lookouts, trails and campgrounds in both the Summit and Kipahulu districts were open to visitors at all other times. However, park-provided services were closed or put on hold, including visitor centers, restrooms, trash collection and facilities and road maintenance.

Polly Angelakis, the park’s chief of interpretation and education, said Monday evening that the park would reopen and resume all visitor services after 3 a.m. today. Visitors with reservations will be allowed to enter for sunrise based on information on the reservation website.

She reminded sunrise visitors that they must make a reservation at recreation.gov. The website was scheduled to resume services at 7 a.m. today.

The visitor center at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in South Maui was closed Monday. An answering machine message stated that due to the shutdown, “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is unable to fully staff the properties under its management. Therefore, the refuge and visitor center are not accessible to the public until further notice.”

Kealia staff couldn’t say when the center would reopen or whether today’s guided bird walk would resume as scheduled. During the shutdown, staff members were prohibited from going about their work as federal employees, “including returning phone calls and emails, until further notice,” according to an automatic email reply from visitor services manager Courtney Brown.

Officials at the Maui Veterans Center in Wailuku could not be reached for comment Monday, though the center did confirm that operations continued as normal during the shutdown.

While Schatz voted in favor of the spending measure, Sen. Mazie Hirono was among the 18 senators — 16 Democrats and two Republicans — who did not. Hirono felt it did not adequately address community health center funding, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and protections for “Dreamers,” the 700,000 or so young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and, until recently, protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“I’m confident that we can reach bipartisan agreement on these issues, and it was completely unnecessary for the president and Congressional Republicans to force a shutdown on them,” Hirono said. “My consistent position has been to oppose any continuing resolution that did not include these priorities. I voted against this continuing resolution for this reason.”

Hirono said she expected McConnell to hold true to his promise to “hold an open debate on DACA and immigration if no compromise is reached by the time this continuing resolution ends on Feb. 8.”

Hirono had previously announced that she would donate the pay she received during the shutdown to Hawaii’s 14 federally qualified community health centers. Both she and Schatz pushed for passage of the Pay Our Military Act, which would ensure payment and benefits for members of the armed forces and their families during the shutdown. Hawaii has nearly 50,000 active duty and reserve members of the military, according to Schatz’s office.

In part due to its military presence, Hawaii was ranked the fifth-most affected state during the shutdown, behind the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and Alaska, according to a WalletHub study. The study weighed six metrics, including each state’s share of federal jobs, federal contract dollars per capita and access to national parks. Hawaii is tied with Washington, D.C., and Maryland for the highest share of federal jobs.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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