Shutdown: Swamp closes, ‘Passport Day’ postponed

Published 9:21 pm Friday, April 8, 2011

With debate on the federal budget continuing into late Friday, area installations affected by a possible closure began to wind their affairs down Friday.

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, part of which is located in Suffolk, will close if a federal government shutdown occurs. The refuge sent out a press release Friday afternoon saying that it will be affected by a closure.

“In the event that the federal government shuts down, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge will be closed to the public,” the release said. The shutdown was set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning if no deal was reached.

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At the swamp, the cancellations will include the Suffolk Tourism bus tour scheduled for Saturday. No boat launches will be permitted, and all refuge entrance points, including Lake Drummond via the Feeder Ditch, will be closed.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has essential personnel in place to protect life and property, the release stated.

If a shutdown does occur, the refuge will be reopened within 24 to 48 hours after it ends as long as no other issues prevent a reopening, the press release stated.

In addition, “Passport Day” events in the Hampton Roads area have been postponed because of the potential shutdown. The Passport Day allowed people who needed to apply for a new or renewed passport to do so without an appointment.

However, the U.S. Department of State has informed the U.S. Postal Service that it will not be allowed to accept passport applications in the event of a shutdown, said Fran Sansone, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service.

No other operations of the postal service will be affected by the closure because it is a self-funded operation. Mail delivery will continue and retail facilities will remain open, Sansone said.

City government services would not be affected, city spokeswoman Debbie George said Thursday. The only ramifications the city might see would be delayed reimbursement of some grants, she said.