King Cove Leaders Condemn U.S. Interior Department’s Study on Non-Road Alternatives
March 29, 2016
King Cove Residents to Secretary Jewell: King Cove Lives Matter!
King Cove, AK – King Cove tribal and community leaders are chastising the U.S. Department of the Interior for wasting taxpayers’ money on an ineffectual study of non-road alternatives from the remote community to the nearby all-weather Cold Bay Airport. The report ignores the insufficient, already completed environmental impact statement and fails to consider that the lives of King Cove residents matter.
“It’s unconscionable that the Department didn’t bother to talk to the local people or allow the Army Corps of Engineers, who was commissioned to conduct the study, to work with us,” said Della Trumble, spokeswoman for the King Cove (Native) Corporation. “The study simply rehashes alternatives such as a helicopter, a new airport for King Cove, and a marine vessel, none of which would work or would be affordable. All of these alternatives were examined and dismissed in past environmental impact statements under NEPA. This was a complete waste of time and money.”
“Where is the concern for King Cove lives? Don’t we matter, too?” King Cove Mayor Henry Mack asked. “U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has no concern for our lives and only wants to appear as if she’s doing something, but this study is meaningless. She didn’t even know whether the study had been made public, which it had not. She also didn’t know whether it had been sent to us, which it had not.”
“The only workable solution is a road,” said Aleutians East Borough Mayor Stanley Mack. “Perhaps Secretary Jewell believes she can turn her back on us. However, we don’t want to risk losing a life during a medical emergency when a simple, common-sense solution (a single-lane gravel road) would safely and reliably connect us to the Cold Bay Airport. Secretary Jewell needs to do the right thing and reverse her decision. King Cove lives matter!”
Since U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell denied the road on Dec. 23, 2013, there have been a total of 40 medevacs. Of those, 15 involved the Coast Guard and 25 were non-Coast Guard medevacs.
The people of King Cove have worked for more than three decades to build a life-saving road corridor linking their isolated community to the all-weather Cold Bay Airport, 25 miles away. The small stretch of road (approximately 11 miles) would connect to existing roads in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and would provide reliable and safe ground transportation to medevac seriously ill or injured patients when travel by plane or boat is too dangerous due to the area’s frequent periods of harsh weather.
In 2009, Congress and the President approved the road and a massive land swap (61,000 acres from the State and the King Cove Corporation) in exchange for a small, 206-acre, single-lane gravel road corridor. However, the deal was blocked by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who issued an order rejecting the road and land exchange just two days before Christmas 2013.
On June 4, 2014, King Cove tribes, the corporation, the city and the Aleutians East Borough (the King Cove Group) sued Secretary Jewell and other federal officials over the rejection of the road. In June 2015, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies approved legislative language by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, directing the Interior Department to do an equal-value land transfer to allow the construction of the connector road. Unfortunately, the language was not included in the final year-end budget deal.
On Sept. 8, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Holland ruled against the King Cove Group and determined there was no violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act (OPLMA). The judge acknowledged that Secretary Jewell based her decision solely on the environmental impacts of the road and ignored the public health and safety impacts.The residents of King Cove continue to fight for life-saving ground access road to the all-weather Cold Bay Airport.
Communications Director, Aleutians East Borough
Office: (907) 274-7579