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King Cove continues push for road to Cold Bay

Kristine Sowl/ Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The community of King Cove is hopeful the new Interior Secretary will look favorably on their proposed project to build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to Cold Bay.

When Alaska Congressman Don Young was sworn in for his 23rd term in the House of Representatives Tuesday, he quickly introduced 38 pieces of legislation. Among them is a bill to build the King Cove road.

For decades, the village of King Cove on the Alaska Peninsula has sought to build an 11-mile road to an all-weather airstrip in Cold Bay. It would cut through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, ecologically sensitive habitat protected by the Fish & Wildlife Service. The Obama Administration denied a land swap proposed in 2013. With a new administration and the backing of Alaska’s Congressional Delegation, King Cove has renewed hope they’ll get their road.

After talking to President-elect’s Trump new Interior Secretary pick, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, Young said that he thinks the road can be approved administratively. But, in case it is not, he also has introduced a bill.

Della Trumble, a spokesperson for the King Cove Corporation, lists key reasons proponents of have fought so long for the road.

“First and foremost is safe access in times of emergencies,” she says. “And in this case it’s normally medical emergencies. And other than that, it’s on a day-to-day basis safe access between the communities of King Cove and Cold Bay.”

When weather is extreme, planes can’t get in or out of King Cove. In the past year, 17 people were medically evacuated, three by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Opponents of the land swap and road construction say it would damage sensitive wildlife habitat. They say that a road through the congressionally delegated Izembek National Wildlife Refuge could harm species such as Pacific brant, emperor geese, Steller’s eiders, tundra swans, and sea lions.

What King Cove’s lobbying strategy with a new Interior Secretary will be, Trumble won’t yet say. She does say, though, that the village is optimistic and that decade’s into this fight, they don’t plan to give up any time soon.

Contact the author: avery@kdlg.org.