Governor Parnell Signs Izembek Land Exchange Bill

August 19, 2010

Anchorage, AK – Aug. 19, 2010 – Governor Sean Parnell signed the Izembek Land Exchange Bill (HB210) today at his Anchorage office.

This critical legislation is another major step forward in the land exchange process. Pending approval by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, a small single-lane gravel road (206 acres) would be built from the remote community of King Cove to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay. That small road would provide residents with a critical link between King Cove and the outside world for health, safety and quality-of-life reasons. In exchange for the road corridor, the State of Alaska and the King Cove Corporation would donate 61,000 acres to the federal government. More than 45,000 acres would go into wilderness status.
“Not to have that (surface) transportation all this time has been harmful to the community,” said Governor Sean Parnell (R – Alaska). “Human safety is paramount is this case. It’s a very high priority to have transportation access that other communities across the country take for granted,” he added.

“As a legislator for southwest Alaska, I know what it’s like to fly in bumpy weather,” said Rep. Bryce Edgmon. “And I can tell you that there isn’t a more treacherous flight when the weather is bad than that 10-minute jaunt from Cold Bay to King Cove. We need the ability, in fierce weather, for people to be medevaced to a long runway. We’re hopeful that this bill sends a very strong message, not only to the U.S. Department of the Interior, but also to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, that this is a critical issue.”

“When our parents, our elders, or our young people are sick, waiting to get out of the community on a foggy day or a windy day, is stressful,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. “To know that we can get in and out of King Cove when we want to — for health and safety reasons and to have peace of mind — is so important.”

During the bill signing ceremony, Governor Parnell was flanked by lawmakers from both the federal and state government who co-sponsored the legislation. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska) and Alaska Rep. Bryce Edgmon (House District 37) played major roles in drafting legislation and getting it passed in the state legislature and the U.S. Congress. House Bill 210 passed the Alaska Legislature in April 2010. This bill completes the state’s role in the agreement and allows the land exchange to occur, pending the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conducted scoping meetings in Washington, D.C., Anchorage, Sand Point, Nelson Lagoon, Cold Bay, False Pass and King Cove last spring, so the public could weigh in. The final EIS is scheduled for release on February 28, 2012. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior must determine that the land exchange and the road corridor are in the public interest before the project can move forward. The Secretary is scheduled to reveal his public interest finding on April 30, 2012.

“A long-term solution is here with House Bill 210,” added King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. “To give up so much land to the federal government for just a small little road corridor should tell the Interior Secretary how vitally important this road access is.”

“Let’s get this thing going,” said Rep. Edgmon. “Let’s get this thing in place like it should have been for many, many years.”