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Federal shutdown being felt across the islands

    Visitors to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park were turned away today due to the shutdown.

The partial shutdown of the federal government rippled across Hawaii Tuesday, from isolated atolls in the far northwest where the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is closed to the southeast where Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is turning away tourists eager to see the glow of Kilauea volcano’s lava. 

On Oahu, boats aren’t taking visitors out to see the sunken hull of the battleship Arizona. Of the 39 National Park Service employees at Pearl Harbor, all but four are being told to stay home. Those who remain are staying on solely for security and emergency purposes. 

Normally, more than 4,000 people visit the USS Arizona Memorial each day.

Farther south, on the Big Island, a ranger at the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has had to turn away hundreds of vehicles at the gate, said spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane.

"They’ve had to come through, do a U-turn and exit the park, unfortunately," Ferracane said. 

The shutdown began on a day when a cruise ship is in Hilo, depriving thousands of ship passengers opportunities to see the volcano. 

Those staying at Volcano House hotel and campsites within the park have 48 hours to leave and find new accommodations, the National Park Service said.

Guests from as far away as Belgium and South Korea chose to check out today, because they can’t explore the park when its trails and roads have been closed, Ferracane said. 

Visitors to the park spend more than $265,000 a day on the Big Island, the Park Service said, underscoring how a prolonged shutdown could harm the state’s biggest industry, tourism. 

The state’s tourism agency issued a statement noting Hawaii’s state and county parks, beaches and trails are still open. 

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said it will monitor the shutdown and how it might affect Hawaii and the industry. 

On the northern edge of the state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said coral reef researchers and cultural practitioners with permits to visit small islands within the Papahanaumokuakea monument won’t be able to go there later this week if the shutdown continues. 

(Among the Fish and Wildlife closures in the Pacific: visitor centers at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai; and Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Kihei, Maui; and the Guam National Wildlife Refuge in Dededo. Also closed: the Boardwalk at Kealia Pond refuge and national wildlife refuges in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument – Midway Atoll and Hawaiian Islands.)

Many wildlife programs also have been suspended amid the shutdown.

Hawaiian monk seals, a critically endangered species, should be able to get help if they are accidentally caught by a fish hook, however. An unofficial Facebook page for the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program says several nonfederal staff are prepared to respond to monk seal emergencies. 

Uniformed military personnel are still working, but the shutdown sent thousands of civilians home early.

At Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, about 2,900 workers — or two-thirds of the civilian workforce — are being furloughed. The shipyard is the state’s largest industrial employer.

Those remaining are primarily performing maintenance work on eight submarines that must deploy within 90 days, shipyard spokeswoman Jensin Sommer said. 

Three submarines currently in dry dock, meanwhile, won’t be repaired.

"Any day that you delay work on any ship repair is significant, and it only grows more so the longer the shutdown continues," Sommer said.

Star-Advertiser staff contributed to this report

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