CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A state House committee has endorsed a bill to help deal with the expected onslaught of visitors coming to Wyoming to view the total solar eclipse Aug. 21.
The House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee endorsed an amended version of House Bill 187 on a 5-4 vote Friday. The bill likely will go next to the House Appropriations Committee.
State Homeland Security Director Guy Cameron estimates about 350,000 people could visit the state just to watch the first total solar eclipse to be seen from the mainland U.S. in almost four decades.
The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, of Cheyenne, would appropriate $100,000 for state grants to help local governments handle extra costs associated with the eclipse.
Zwonitzer said his intention is to “provide some money to local governments for the once-in-a-lifetime event because I’m just not sure that our infrastructure is going to adequately prepare for everything.”
“And certainly planning will help but if we have a cloudy night in Idaho or Nebraska and you get 200,000 people driving at 2 a.m. into our state because it’s clear here … people will say, ‘Hey why wasn’t there any planning or why wasn’t there money or why didn’t we think that there may be cars lined up and down the interstate for a hundred miles and a traffic jam that lasted three days,” he said.
Under the bill, the state Office of Homeland Security would award the grants.
Cameron said his office would consider issues such as whether a city, town or county needs additional help with security or cleanup costs.
A couple of committee members thought $100,000 wasn’t enough money, but the panel declined to boost the amount.
The committee also voted to strip a provision of the bill allowing the governor to authorize up to eight hours of administrative leave for state employees on that day.
Solar eclipses, which happen when the moon passes directly between the Earth and sun, are not rare, but they seldom happen in such easily accessible places.
In Wyoming , prime viewing of the eclipse will run across the state from Jackson in the northwest, through Casper and down through Glendo State Park in the southeast part of the state.