Governor Sean Parnell expressed deep frustration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) selection of a "no action" alternative in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the King Cove to Cold Bay access project.
"I cannot fathom why the Fish and Wildlife Service prioritized a perceived risk to birds over an existing threat to human life," Governor Parnell said. "After years of good faith efforts by the State of Alaska, the Alaska Legislature, the Aleutians East Borough, the City of King Cove, the King Cove Corporation, the Agdaagux Tribe, the Belkofski Tribe, and local residents to work with the federal government, the USFWS chose to deny King Cove residents access to basic services, like all-weather medical evacuation."
The road alternatives in the EIS require roughly 200 acres of federal land for a nine-mile road corridor to complete a 25-mile link between King Cove and Cold Bay. In a land exchange that depends on a road being built, the state and King Cove Corporation offered approximately 56,000 acres to be added to the Izembek and Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge.
The road alternatives would complete a 25-mile link between King Cove and Cold Bay's all-weather airport. The community of King Cove and the Aleutians East Borough have sought the road for many years as an alternative to a weather-dependent hovercraft. Operation of the hovercraft has proven very expensive and unreliable in bad weather. A road link is particularly important when residents of King Cove have medical emergencies and need to be evacuated by air ambulance.
"The weather in that region is some of the most dangerous in the world," Governor Parnell added. "The residents need and deserve a safe, reliable transportation option. A road will save lives, and is the only workable long-term solution."
The state urges the USFWS to reconsider the selection of the "no action" alternative before they complete the record of decision.