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Budget forces recreational cuts at Libby Dam

| April 9, 2004 12:00 AM

By Roger Morris, Western News Publisher

Programs, such as Junior Ranger, the campfire talks and senior citizens outreach, are being axed from the Libby Dam budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Also, the Corps is closing Blackwell Flats to camping and the visitors center will not be open on Wednesdays nor will there be dam tours on Wednesdays for the coming summer season.

³We got fewer dollars and we had to weigh what was the least impact to the public,² said Mick Shea, the Corps¹ project manager at the dam.

Earlier this year, Shea had informed Lincoln County Commissioners that the War in Iraq and Homeland Security issues were seriously impacting the Corps¹ budget for the various dam projects in the Pacific Northwest.

In a recent letter to the commissioners, he said the Libby Dam staff has participated in an extensive review to make sure the changes have minimal impact on visitors to the recreational opportunities at the dam and Lake Koocanusa as well as the least impact to the local economy.

³Considering the amount of the funding shortfall, we feel we have surpassed our goals in this respect,² Shea said in the letter to the county leadership.

The boat ramp at Blackwell Flats will remain open but the campsites will be closed citing the light use of the area, Shea said.

³I¹m not saying Blackwell is not used but we decided on the least impact,² he said.

Recent upgrades to the Dunn Creek campground have resulted in increased useage on the opposite side of the river, Shea explained.

Shea said he can¹t predict what the future budgets will look like but he was ³hoping² the changes were for one year.

³I can¹t forecast the budget but we¹re going to be okay for the most part,² he said. ³We ended up better than we thought.²