King Cove Residents Praise Senator Murkowski’s Accurate Critique of Secretary Jewell’s Letter on Road Access Issue
King Cove, AK – August 14, 2014 – King Cove residents commended Senator Lisa Murkowski today following her accurate assessment of the U.S. Interior Secretary’s letter: Jewell has done nothing to help King Cove with its transportation access problem, despite her pledge nearly eight months ago to do so.
“Once again Secretary Jewell is brushing us off. We wholeheartedly agree with Senator Murkowski’s assessment,” said Della Trumble, spokeswoman for the Agdaagux Tribe and the King Cove Corporation. “It’s truly shocking that after months of waiting to hear from the Secretary, all we get is a disingenuous response completely lacking in substance.”
“How can she ignore two Izembek environmental impact statements, both of which rejected marine/dock and helicopter alternatives?” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. “An improved dock and ferry would not adequately address King Cove’s access to medical flights at the Cold Bay Airport in harsh weather. Furthermore, what commercial helicopter is going to be able to fly in howling winds and zero visibility? If Jewell believes there are other workable alternatives, we need to see some real evidence to support those claims, not just idle words.”
Yesterday’s letter from Jewell was the first response from the Secretary since her promise to respond to King Cove’s letters. On January 16, King Cove tribes and community leaders wrote asking Jewell to reconsider her December 2013 decision to reject the road corridor and land exchange. On April 15, the King Cove group sent a letter to Jewell explaining in detail why alternatives other than the road would not meet the safety concerns of the remote community.
“Every possible alternative has been discussed, analyzed and ultimately rejected as being either unreliable, infeasible or both,” Trumble said.
“Let’s be honest here,” said Mayor Mack. “Jewell’s rejection of the road has little to do with the real facts of the environmental impacts of a road. Her rejection is in keeping with this administration’s policy of catering to the wishes of environmental activists who have repeatedly rejected our attempts to increase the size of the Izembek Refuge in exchange for safer access to emergency medical care.”
King Cove, an isolated community often plagued by gale-force winds, dense fog and stormy weather that can make air and boat travel all but impossible, remains in desperate need of a safe and reliable transportation route to the nearby, all-weather airport in Cold Bay in cases of medical emergencies.
“This issue is not about economic development. That’s a bogus argument critics have brought up in the past,” Trumble said. “It’s not about providing safe access for Cold Bay residents, as Jewell suggests. They already have that. This is about providing safe, dependable transportation for King Cove residents for health, safety and quality of life purposes. That’s what every parent wants for their children. It’s simply a matter of justice – especially when only a few short miles of road would connect us with Cold Bay and the second-longest runway in the state.”
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 when travel by plane or boat is too dangerous.
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 and land exchange just two days before Christmas last year. On June 4, 2014, King Cove tribes, the corporation, the city and the Aleutians East Borough sued Jewell and other federal officials over the EIS and the road issue.
For more information, visit http://www.aleutianseast.org/ .