AK Tribal Leaders Say CAGW’s Naming of Sen. Murkowski as “Porker of the Month” is Despicable

March 21, 2014

King Cove, AK – March 21, 2014 – Tribal and community leaders from King Cove, Alaska say the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) have hit a whole new low after naming Senator Lisa Murkowski as the organization’s “Porker of the Month.” CAGW sent out a press release this week, saying the organization is ‘honoring’ Senator Murkowski with this title for her support of a so-called “parochial pet project involving the construction of a 38-mile dead-end road to nowhere.”

 “Not only is this ‘honor’, as they call it, insulting to Senator Lisa Murkowski, but the moniker, ‘road to nowhere’ is a slap in the face to the Aleut (Alaska Native) people of King Cove,” said DellaTrumble, the spokeswoman for the Agdaagux Tribal Council and the King Cove (Native) Corporation. “Furthermore, the group’s claims are rife with misinformation,” she added. “CAGW, like Bruce Babbitt, who recently wrote an ill-informed editorial opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, seems bent on spreading falsifications to mislead the public. The truth is and always has been that the 11-mile road needed to connect King Cove with Cold Bay’s all-weather airport has always been about saving lives and providing safe and reliable transportation for residents.”

 “Clearly, CAGW and Bruce Babbitt aren’t doing their homework when it comes to the facts surrounding this issue,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. “Their claims are so outlandish and flat-out wrong, it’s mind-boggling. “Apparently their method of operation is to confuse the public about the facts and continue to repeat this misinformation over and over again so people will accept it as truth. We know better, and so should CAGW and Bruce Babbitt.”

One week ago (March 11th), the Coast Guard medevaced two King Cove patients in one day during blizzard conditions. Walter Wilson, Jr., a 33 year-old fisherman, was severely injured after a cod pot, weighing 600 pounds, fell on him while on a fishing boat. His hips were dislocated and his pelvis was fractured. On the same day, his six week-old infant son, Wyatt, had trouble breathing and was later diagnosed with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Both had to wait more than seven hours for the Coast Guard to fly into the remote community because of poor visibility. Wilson and his son were the fifth King Cove medevacs conducted by the Coast Guard this year.

“It’s frustrating and distressing to think that all of these patients could have received medical attention much sooner if there was a road connecting King Cove to the Cold Bay airport,” Mayor Mack said.

Nearly three months ago, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected a massive land swap (56,000 acres from the State and the King Cove Corporation) in exchange for access to a small single-lane gravel road corridor (206 acres). That road corridor would have connected the remote community to the all-weather Cold Bay Airport for emergency medical issues and quality of life reasons. The fishing town is accessible only by small plane or boat, weather-permitting. The community is surrounded by mountainous terrain and is often plagued by gale-force winds and dense fog.

Since Jewell’s reject of the land exchange and road corridor, Senator Lisa Murkowski and King Cove residents sent a letter to the Interior Secretary, requesting that she reconsider her decision. In the meantime, Senator Murkowski has continued to champion the road issue, vowing that she won’t give up.

We are so grateful to Senators Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich, Congressman Don Young, Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska Legislature for their continued support with this critical issue,” Trumble said.

“We’re still hopeful that Secretary Jewell will reconsider her decision,” Mayor Mack added. “For us, it’s a matter of life and death.”

Facts vs. Misinformation:

Misinformation: The CAGW claims the construction of the road between King Cove and Cold Bay would be 38 miles.

Fact: The full length of the road would be about 30 miles (of which 19 miles already exist), but only about 11 miles of new road are needed within the refuge to connect with Cold Bay.

Misinformation: The CAGW calls it a “dead-end road to nowhere.”

Fact: The Aleut (indigenous) people of King Cove have lived in this area for more than 4,000years. To call the area, “nowhere” is both false and insulting. To call it a dead-end road is a purposeful misstatement. The road would connect King Cove to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay, the hub airport connecting passengers in the Aleutian region, to all points outside.

Misinformation: CAGW and Bruce Babbitt claim the objective of the road is to connect Peter Pan Seafoods with Cold Bay’s airport for commercial purposes.

Fact: Peter Pan Seafoods has never expressed interest in the road for commercial purposes. Furthermore, the 2009 legislation of the King Cove/Izembek land exchange and road specifically states that the road cannot be used for commercial purposes. The objective of the road is to provide reliable and safe transportation for medical and quality of life reasons for the residents of King Cove.

Misinformation: Babbitt claims the federal government solved King Cove’s transportation access problem with a hovercraft.

Fact: The Aleutians East Borough tried to make the experimental hovercraft work between King Cove and Cold Bay, however the unpredictable weather combined with the high cost of maintenance and operations made it impossible to continue. The service between the communities ended in 2010. The only emergency medical transportation option available now is costly and uncertain medevacs.

Misinformation: CAGW and Babbitt claim the road would be funded with federal money.

Fact: Federal funding for the road corridor legislation has not been requested. State funds would pay for construction and maintenance of the road.

Misinformation: CAGW claim that darkness, avalanche conditions and ice-glazed roads would prevent a road corridor from remaining open.

Fact: The proposed road corridor would be located in area consisting of mostly flat terrain or rolling hills. The likelihood of an avalanche causing problems is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Alaskans are very capable of driving during winter conditions and in the dark. Maintenance crews in King Cove and Cold Bay are very efficient at keeping roads clear.