States like Utah and Colorado, which paid the expenses of the National Park Service during the governmental shutdown, will have to wait for Congress to approve any reimbursements they might expect for having kept the lights on at national parks.
Five governors struck a deal with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to salvage late-season tourism at iconic destinations like Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Canyonlands and Arches National Monument in Utah, and the Statue of Liberty in New York.
The hastily-written deals read a bit like questionable emails from Nigeria promising riches in exchange for wiring money into strange accounts. The Department of Interior calculated the costs for each state keeping their parks open for 10 days, then required them to wire the money in advance from their state treasuries into a special “donations account.”
They were also required to keep a two-day buffer in the account if they wanted to extend the time the parks stayed open past 10 days.
In Colorado’s case, Gov. John Hickenlooper wired $367,700 to the Interior Department on Oct. 11 to cover the cost of running Rocky Mountain National Park for 10 days.
Utah paid the most, handing over $1.7 million to pay for 10 days of operation at eight sites. New York paid $369,000; Arizona paid $651,000; and South Dakota paid $152,000 to keep Mount Rushmore open.
All of the states will be getting some refunds, since the government reopened before the 10 days were up, but getting back the rest of the cash could be trickier — the continuing resolution passed on Tuesday that reopened the government did not contain a provision to pay the states back.
“The funds were donated and we can only reimburse the states if Congress expressly directs us to do so through legislation,” said National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst, the Daily Camera reports. “The continuing resolution does not provide the needed directive.”
Most of the Colorado delegation has said they would support legislation to pay back the states.
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