U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today issued the following statement on the release of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's environmental impact statement on construction of an emergency road to connect the remote communities of King Cove and Cold Bay.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the land exchange without choosing a preferred alternative action, which allows a proposal to provide emergency surface access for King Cove residents to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay to move forward.
"The residents of King Cove have been working for more than 20 years to get road access to the airport at Cold Bay, so today's decision clearing the way for the Interior Department to issue a final ruling on the land exchange is a welcome one," Murkowski said.
The land exchange, which was approved by Congress in the 2009 Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Land Exchange Act, would increase the size of the Izembek and Alaska Peninsula Wildlife Refuges by more than 56,000 acres in exchange for 206 acres of federally-owned land to construct a single-land, gravel road to connect King Cove and Cold Bay.
"When you consider the number of life-threatening accidents that have occurred due to the challenges of flying into King Cove during foul weather, I believe there is no greater good we could do than to provide safe road access to the all-weather airport at nearby Cold Bay," Murkowski said. "Conserving our natural spaces is important, but we have to balance that with the safety needs of local residents."
Once the environmental review is complete, the Secretary of the Interior is responsible for making a decision on whether the land exchange and the small road corridor are in the public interest. Murkowski encourages Alaskans to participate in the upcoming public comment period.
"Now that the EIS is released, and especially since it does not make a recommendation on the preferred alternative that should be implemented, it's important for Alaskans to express their opinions about why a road is needed to protect the safety of King Cove residents," Murkowski said. "We need to make a clear case for the importance of the road during the comment period that soon will open."