Interior Secretary’s Refusal to Reopen Record of Decision on Road Access Disheartens King Cove Residents
King Cove, AK – August 13, 2014 – King Cove tribal and community leaders say they are disappointed that U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has decided against reopening the Record of Decision (ROD) on the Izembek Land Exchange Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Secretary Jewell announced her decision today in a letter to the local tribes, the King Cove (Native) Corporation, the City of King Cove and the Aleutians East Borough.
“We are truly saddened by the Secretary’s decision,” said Della Trumble, spokeswoman for the Agdaagux Tribe and the King Cove Corporation. “We’re not surprised, but it’s certainly a big blow for the people of King Cove.”
Earlier this year, King Cove Tribes, the City of King Cove and the Aleutians East Borough had sent a letter to Jewell, requesting she reconsider her decision in which she denied a massive land swap in exchange for a small, single-lane gravel road (206) acres to the all-weather Cold Bay Airport. In the letter, the King Cove group stated that the ROD failed to consider information showing the lack of an access alternative to Cold Bay other than the road that meets the safe, reliable and affordable Purpose and Need criteria of the EIS.
In Secretary Jewell’s letter, she said the Department of Interior (DOI) stands by the decision and will not reopen the ROD. However, she said DOI remains committed to evaluate and develop other transportation improvements for the residents of King Cove and Cold Bay. Jewell raised two possible alternatives: a ferry with improvements to the Cold Bay dock and helicopter service.
“It’s quite clear to us that Secretary Jewell does not have a thorough understanding of this issue,” said Trumble. “Otherwise, she would know from the information we provided several months ago that neither of those options would be reliable or feasible. These alternatives, among others, have already been analyzed and rejected.”
The people of King Cove have campaigned for more than three decades to get a life-saving road corridor linking the isolated community to the all-weather Cold Bay Airport, located just 25 miles away. The small stretch of road needed (11 miles) would connect to existing roads in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The road would have provided reliable and safe transportation to medevac seriously ill or injured patients during frequent periods of harsh weather.
In 2009, Congress and the President approved the road and a massive land swap (56,000 acres from the State and the King Cove Corporation) in exchange for a small single-lane gravel road corridor to the nearby all-weather Cold Bay Airport. Following an environmental impact statement, which King Cove residents believe is biased, Jewell rejected the road just two days before Christmas last year.
“This is bitter pill for us to swallow,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. “We know this life-saving road is the only workable solution. Despite this setback, we have no intentions of giving up. Our children, our elders and our community as a whole are counting on us.”
For more information, visit http://www.aleutianseast.org/ .