Alaska’s legislature is still searching for ways to connect King Cove and Cold Bay by building a road through a federal wildlife refuge.
Their latest effort is a joint resolution introduced by Aleutians representative Bob Herron. The six-page resolution urges Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to reconsider a land swap plan she turned down in December.
The state of Alaska and the King Cove Corporation are still offering 61,000 acres of land. In return, they want 1,800 acres in and around the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
King Cove would build a gravel road through that parcel to the town of Cold Bay, where more reliable commercial medevacs are available.
That’s one reason why Herron calls the rejection of the land deal “heartless and cold” in his resolution. It advanced after a hearing in Alaska’s House Resources Committee Monday afternoon.
Senator Lisa Murkowski called in from Washington to offer praise.
“I think this resolution will help affirm that as Alaskans we are united in opposition to the secretary’s decision, and that we’re united to protect the health and safety of those who live in King Cove,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski has criticized the Interior Department’s approach on multiple occasions.
During her testimony, Murkowski reminded the Alaska House Resources Committee that Interior Secretary Jewell pledged to find a different solution when she rejected the road almost three months ago.
“But there has been no idea, no proposal transmitted thus far,” Murkowski said. “Not one employee that I can find at Interior has done anything to improve the situation. And each day, each day that passes, the people of King Cove are further put at risk because of a decision that our own federal government has made.”
Jewell based her ruling on testimony, studies, and site visits by Interior staff — including her own trip last summer. Jewell said the road would do irreversible damage to land and wildlife in the Izembek refuge.