Backers of King Cove Road Say Battle Isn’t Done

Residents of King Cove, a fishing community on the Alaska
Peninsula that is home to a large, year-round Peter Pan Seafoods processing
plant, say they will keep fighting for a road vital to emergency medical
Veteran commercial fisherman Stanley Mack, mayor of the
Aleutians East Borough, says backers of the single lane road to connect King
Cove to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay plan to regroup in January and look
at further options.
Mack and residents of King Cove, along with Alaska Gov. Sean
Parnell and the state’s congressional delegation expressed outrage over the
decision of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to reject a proposed land swap that
would have allowed for the road.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, denounced Jewell’s decision
as heartless and ill-informed. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said he would
introduce legislation in January directing the federal government to build that
The land exchange was approved by Congress in 2009, as the
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Land Exchange Act.
It would have allowed the federal government to exchange 206
acres from the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and 1,600 acres from a refuge
south of Kodiak for 43,093 acres of state land and 13,300 acres of land owned
by the King Cove Corp., an Alaska Native village firm. Jewell’s decision on
Dec. 23 reaffirms an earlier rejection of the proposed land swap by the US Fish
and Wildlife Service.
The Interior Secretary said that she supports the USFWS
decision that “building a road through the refuge would cause irreversible
damage not only to the refuge itself, but to the wildlife that depend on it.”
Over the years over a dozen people have died, either in
plane crashes or because they could not get to Anchorage hospitals in time to
get emergency treatment.
In stormy weather, small planes that normally carry
passengers to Cold Bay from King Cove cannot take off or land at King Cove,
leaving as the only possible option traveling by fishing boat, a bumpy ride
that can take about three hours.

Meanwhile sport hunters continue to enter the Izembek
National Wildlife Refuge via Cold Bay, where area hunting lodges advertise
their availability for sport hunting trips that include the taking of Pacific
black brant and other waterfowl that Jewell and a number of conservation
organizations have said need to have their feeding habitat protected.