U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Thursday met with top officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the agency's opposition to a land exchange that would provide emergency road access for the people of King Cove, Alaska.
Murkowski, who met with USFWS Alaska Regional Director Geoff Haskett and USFWS Director Dan Ashe in her Washington, D.C. Senate office, called the meeting "unsatisfactory."
"I am now even more concerned that the Fish and Wildlife Service simply made an assumption that alternatives to the road were available to the people of King Cove, but did nothing to consider the feasibility of those alternatives," Murkowski said.
Murkowski had previously written to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar demanding that he meet with the people of King Cove. That meeting, at Murkowski's request, is now scheduled for the end of this month.
"This fight is not over. The secretary has the power to approve the road," Murkowski said. "I think it's critical that he hear directly from the people whose lives he is putting at risk if he vetoes the road."
Murkowski's letter to Secretary Salazar and a fact sheet about the land exchange are available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.
The land exchange, which was approved by Congress in 2009, would add 56,000 acres of state and tribal lands to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula and allow the community of King Cove to build a single-lane, gravel road through 206 acres of the refuge to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay for emergency medical evacuation purposes.
A number of deaths have been attributed to the lack of road access to the Cold Bay airport over the past 30 years. The worst accident occurred in 1981 when a plane crashed during an attempted medical evacuation, killing all four people onboard.
The Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a final environmental impact statement that identified its preferred alternative as one that does not support allowing the land exchange and emergency access road to go forward.