Feds likely to permit survey work for King Cove road, nominee says

Shannon Estenoz is nominated to be the assistant Interior secretary in charge of the Fish & Wildlife Service and the Park Service.

A Biden administration nominee says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is likely to allow a road corridor survey in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge this summer.

The road, if it’s built, would connect King Cove to Cold Bay, which residents say would save lives in medical emergencies. Cold Bay has a massive runway while weather often impedes access to King Cove

Sen. Lisa Murkowski raised the subject Tuesday at Shannon Estenoz’s confirmation hearing to be assistant Interior secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Murkowski said the state of Alaska needs a green light soon to get the work done during the summer field season. Estenoz suggested it was possible.

“Fish and Wildlife is processing that special use permit,” Estenoz said. “I think that there’s every intention to issue it.”

The road has been a goal of the Alaska delegation in Congress for decades. Democratic administrations have tended to side with environmental groups, who argue a road would damage valuable habitat in a wilderness area designated for the highest level of federal protection.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has agreed to meet with the people of King Cove to discuss it.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage.

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