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Washington, D.C. – The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands today met to discuss Alaska Congressman Don Young’s legislation to facilitate a life-saving road for the isolated community of King Cove, Alaska.
“When I watch lives die of my Alaska Natives, because someone has an ecosystem that will not be affected by this road at all – it is wrong. The idea that the area is going to be disturbed is nonsense. It’s pure B.S. that comes out of these interest groups – these environmental groups,” said Congressman Don Young. “There’s 150 miles of road on this refuge already. There are 11 lodges there that hunt birds on this refuge. We’re talking about an 11-mile road that’s nowhere near the lagoon or the eelgrass. This is going to save lives. Now, the day that this Congress will take and love a goose, that’s not going to be harmed, over a human life – shame on you. I’m not going to tolerate that.”
On the first day of the 115th Congress, Rep. Young introduced H.R. 218, legislation to authorize a land exchange to facilitate the construction of a road linking the City of King Cove and the City of Cold Bay, the home to an all-weather airport (closed an average of 10 days per year) featuring Alaska’s fifth-longest runway.
Under the exchange, 43,093 acres of non-federal lands owned by the State of Alaska will be transferred to the Department of the Interior (DOI) and added to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge as designated Wilderness. In return, the State of Alaska will receive 206 acres of federal lands for the construction of an 11-mile, gravel, one-lane, non-commercial road segment that will connect existing roads on both sides of the refuge. The corridor would account for approximately 0.06 percent of the 315,000-acre Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Currently, 131 acres of the proposed 206 acre project are designated as Wilderness.
“Who would have believed that this battle for safe access would have taken decades – a right that most people in the United States enjoy daily?” said Della Trumble, a member of the Agdaagux Tribe of King Cove, speaking on behalf of the residents of King Cove. “How much more do we need to endure, particularly when there is such a reasonable, dependable and affordable solution to our transportation access problem to the Cold Bay Airport? We desperately need the 11-mile, one-lane gravel road connecting King Cove to the Cold Bay Airport…No mother should ever have to witness their own precious daughter crash-land at the King Cove Airstrip and it should not be happening in this day and age.”
King Cove is located between two volcanic mountains near the end of the Alaska Peninsula, about 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. Since Secretary Sally Jewell’s heartless denial of the King Cove road in 2013, the community has experienced 53 medivacs – including 17 by the U.S. Coast Guard – in often harsh weather conditions. In the past, plane crashes have led to multiple fatalities that could have been avoided had road transportation been an option. Without the road, local residents continue to be at the mercy of high winds, dense fog, and strong storms that prevent safe and timely transportation during medical emergencies.
Today’s hearing featured opposition to Young’s King Cove legislation, including Democrat members of the subcommittee and Alaskan Myron Naneng of Hooper Bay.
For more information on H.R. 218, click here.
To download video from Wednesday’s hearing, click here.
To download photos from Wednesday’s hearing, click here.