Yesterday, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, US Senator Lisa Murkowski and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited King Cove, Alaska to listen to calls from local residents for a road connecting Cold Bay Airport. Local residents gave their testimonies, emphasizing the need for safe, reliable and affordable access to Cold Bay Airport.
“This region and its ancestors have existed for thousands of years, long before the Wildlife Refuge,” said Governor Dunleavy. “With little to no advice, they woke up one morning and there was a wildlife refuge being set up thousands of miles away from Washington DC with no regard for people’s needs. The courts have ruled that the secretary can correct this historical error herself. It was evident that there was overwhelming support for the road in King Cove. Here’s the irony: there’s a road from Cold Bay to the sanctuary that hundreds – if not thousands – of tourists and hunters take advantage of every year. The federal government must consider the human safety and quality of life factors of King Cove residents. Locals deserve to be heard by the federal government.”
The road connecting the two cities would allow King Cove residents to fly for medical treatment instead of taking an ambulance or plane, which weather often delays. There have been 157 registered medevacs in the past eight years. In 1980, four people died in a plane crash while exiting King Cove in extreme whiteout conditions. Two years later, another plane crash killed six people trying to locate and land in fog. In 1990, another plane crash killed the pilot trying to access the runway in high winds.
In 1980, the Alaska National Lands Interest Conservation Act was passed, creating 300,000 acres of wilderness in the Izembek Refuge – where the road must pass. Those opposed to the road believe it will set a pattern for other wildlife sanctuaries and harm the environment. King Cove Airport is a 3,500-foot gravel strip, has an average of 100 bad weather days a year, and operates only during daylight hours. It is a precarious place between volcanic mountains and notorious winds. Last month, a court panel sent the final approval documents to Minister Haaland’s desk to proceed with the road in King Cove. Alaska is waiting for your signature of approval.