Tulsa District Army Corps Of Engineers Operating For Now On Last Year's Funds

Wednesday, October 2nd 2013, 10:11 pm

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been sent home without pay, but employees with the Tulsa District Army Corps of Engineers are still on the clock. But not for long.

Right now, workers with the Corps are operating off last year's money, which means they've been able to go around putting up barricades and post signs saying the campgrounds are closed.

But the money won't last much longer and workers are getting nervous about losing their paychecks.

"Right up until the last minute, we'll be doing our job as best we can," said Travis Miller, Lead Park Ranger at Keystone Lake.

The threat of being furloughed is keeping Miller up at night.

"Young family and everything else, money's always tight, and then you take away a few days' pay and everything gets a little more tight," Miller said.

Right now, the Tulsa District Office of the US Army Corps of Engineers is operating off carry-over funds from last year. But Division Chief of Operations, Earl Groves, said that money is running thin, which means 98 percent of the district's 300 workers will likely be sent home by Monday, if a resolution isn't met.

10/1/2013 Related Story: Federal Government Shutdown Begins

"We have plenty of work to do and a few amount of workers to work on them, so when you have a set back, it puts us farther behind," Groves said.

Miller says one of the most concerning jobs being pushed back is building fire guards, which help prevent wildfires.

"You guys remember the Mannford wildfires last year? So, we do a lot of prescribed burns to reduce the fuel load. This time of year, we prep for those prescribed burns we normally do in the winter time and on into the spring," Miller said.

Miller said if the shutdown lasts a more than a few weeks, rangers will be so backed up, some areas may have to go without those important fireguards.

There are a few workers who will be exempt from furloughs: those who operate the dam and the navigation channel on the Port of Catoosa.

But the hope for Groves and the rest of the workers is that a deal is made soon, so their work can continue.

"You like to keep business as normal, so that you make progress and keep the nation strong," Groves said.

The Corps gave campers until 8 o'clock Wednesday night to leave the campsites. But they were given a rain check, as will anyone else who's made reservations.

Rangers say the best thing to do is to call the main Corps office before you head to any of the Corps lakes in the Tulsa area.

Historically, federal workers are paid back for their lost time after a shut down, but Corps employees say they don't know if it will work out that way this time.