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Herron and Edgmon Praise Salazar Plan for Further Consideration of King Cove Road Project 3/21/13



Thursday, March 21, 2013, Juneau, Alaska - Representatives Bob Herron, D-Bethel, and Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, welcomed news from Washington, D.C., today that the U.S. Department of the Interior will take additional steps to consider approval of a road from King Cove to the airport at Cold Bay, about 25 miles away. A segment of the road would cross the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Herron represents the Alaska Peninsula city of King Cove in the Alaska House. Edgmon counted the community among his constituents for three terms leading up to last year’s legislative redistricting.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs will travel to King Cove for face-to-face consultations with the local tribes, city and Aleutians East Borough officials, and Native corporation officials. Salazar also directed that his successor as Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, will travel to King Cove to gather firsthand information and to hold an official meeting.

“I find it very encouraging that Secretary Salazar appreciates the human dimension that underlies this issue,” Herron said. “It comes as no surprise to me that the delegation from King Cove that met with the secretary last week was successful in persuading him to seek a more complete understanding of the life safety needs of the community.”

On March 7, while in the nation’s capital, Herron, along with Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, and Senators Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and John Coghill, R-North Pole, hand delivered to Secretary Salazar a letter questioning U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s “no action” selection on the Izembek issue.

“It was just three years ago that the legislature passed a bill 58 votes to zero to allow the project to take place.  I can’t imagine a clearer signal of support for the road,” Edgmon said. “I’ve worked with the people of King Cove for years, and I know the decades of struggle they have dedicated to this goal.  I’m relieved that Secretary Salazar has made sure the incoming secretary will have a full understanding of how crucial this road is for medical emergencies.”  

In 2010, the Alaska Legislature unanimously passed legislation authorizing a land exchange between the state and the federal government that was designed to move the road project forward. However, final approval of the single-lane route through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge requires a determination by the Interior Secretary that the project is in the public interest.

In February, the Alaska House and Senate deplored U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s selection of “no action” in its Environmental Impact Statement evaluating the proposed road. Alaskan lawmakers strongly urged Secretary Salazar to take into account important realities regarding the health and safety of King Cove residents when weighing his best interest finding. Alaska’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and U.S. Representative Don Young, was equally vehement in its demands that the Department of Interior give the road proposal a just and thorough review.

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