New Twist in Battle for King Cove Road

A decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service
notwithstanding, proponents of a road to the Aleutian fishing village of King
Cove will have another chance to plead their case for an emergency road to the
all-weather airport at Cold Bay.

The federal agency recently opposed a land
exchange approved by Congress in 2009, one that would add 56,000 acres of state
and tribal lands to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska
Peninsula, while allowing the community of King Cove to build a single lane
gravel road through 206 acres of the refuge, to the Cold Bay airport. Several
environmental groups, citing habitat needs of waterfowl, have raised strong
opposition to the road.

Residents of King Cove, many of them
employed in commercial fisheries, note that even when several thousand US
troops were stationed in the area now comprising the wildlife refuge during
World War Two, the soldiers and their vehicles did no lasting damage to
waterfowl habitat.

An entourage from King Cove is heading for
Washington DC next week to meet with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, to talk
about the need for the road so people with medical emergencies can be flown
from Cold Bay to a hospital in Anchorage.  

Given the weather in King Cove, where Peter
Pan Seafoods has a large year-round plant, small aircraft are often unable to
take off or land there, leaving patients with a medical emergency with only one
possible option- traveling over rough seas for two to three hours on a fishing
vessel to reach the Cold Bay airport. 

A road between the two communities would
make the trip shorter and less dangerous. Over the past 30 years a number of
deaths have been attributed to the lack of road access to the Cold Bay airport,
including a 1981 plane crash during an attempted medical evacuation that killed
all four people onboard.

One of the latest medical emergencies at
King Cove occurred in early February and involved a worker at the Peter Pan Seafoods
plant suffering a heart attack who had to be transported to Cold Bay by boat.
The trip took more than two hours.

Now King Cove residents want to state their
case directly to Interior Secretary Salazar, hoping to convince him that the
public interest determination authority he has should be used to approve the
land exchange, so the road can be built.