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Fallout From the Decision to Reject the King Cove to Cold Bay Road

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J. Stephen Conn

Alaska's Congressional Delegation continues to voice displeasure with the recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prohibit construction of a road between Cold Bay and King Cove.

On Thursday Congressman Don Young gave a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives calling on Senators to hold up the nomination of Sally Jewell to become the next Secretary of the Department of the Interior, which houses the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Young wants the hold to stay in effect until the Department of the Interior signs off on the land exchange that would allow the road to be built through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. During the speech Young characterized the decision as an injustice and in an opinion piece in Politico Congressman Young urged current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to overturn the recent decision before he leaves his post. The decision to not allow the single-lane, gravel road to connect King Cove and Cold Bay means that King Cove residents will not have access to the Cold Bay Airport for emergencies when air travel in and out of King Cove is impossible. The decision to halt the land transfer and construction of the emergency access road has also angered Senator Mark Begich who sent a letter to President Obama this week in which he says the recent decision ignores the life and safety needs of the residents of King Cove. Begich noted that Congress approved the land exchange to allow King Cove residents to access the airport in Cold Bay but the road is now stopped because of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision. In the letter Senator Begich is asking for a meeting between outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar before he leaves office and he's also asking Secretary designee Jewell to visit Alaska within the first 60-days on the job. Earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a final Environmental Impact Statement that basically ruled out the land exchange and construction of the proposed road between Cold Bay and King Cove.