Calling it an issue of life and death, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today blasted a federal Department of Interior decision today to prohibit a road from King Cove to Cold Bay which would provide residents with access to a key airport in the case of emergencies. The airport is only 25 miles away and now accessible by boat or small plane and only when weather permits.
"This wrong-headed decision by Washington bureaucrats simply ignores the life and safety realities of the Alaskans who call the community of King Cove home. King Cove residents need access to a viable airport in case of emergency and Cold Bay airport is just 25 miles away. I voted for a bill shortly after arriving in the Senate in 2009 to provide King Cove residents access to this airport and now Washington is ignoring the will of Congress and the needs of Alaskans," Begich said.
"I'll be working over the next few months to make sure the residents of King Cove have a voice in this decision and that DOI understands the importance of this road as the best interest finding is prepared."
The anti-road decision was announced today by the Department of the Interior (DOI) in releasing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) recommending a "no build alternative." The decision specifically prohibits a strategic three-way land exchange between the State of Alaska, village corporations, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The exchange would allow for construction of the road through Izemak National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula and provide King Cove residents with access to the airport runway in Cold Bay.
Begich voted for the exchange in 2009. He said he will now be working over the coming weeks to ensure that Alaska's needs are heard as the DOI prepares the best interest finding, which takes into account the needs of residents beyond the environmental impact.