Praising the persuasive abilities of the residents of King Cove, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today welcomed further review by the Department of Interior (DOI) of a proposed road to serve the medical and other needs of the remote Alaska Peninsula community.
"I've joined with all members of Alaska's congressional delegation in demanding the Obama administration give this sound road proposal a thorough review," Begich said. "The residents of King Cove did an excellent job convincing Secretary Salazar to take a second look when they met recently and they deserve credit for persuading Secretary Salazar to keep the road issue open."
Begich said a directive issued today by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar should help persuade Salazar's successor that the 25-mile road connecting King Cove and the Cold Bay airport makes sense. Salazar today directed the department's Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to visit King Cove to meet with local residents and said he would not issue a decision denying construction of the road before he leaves office in the next two weeks.
Following Begich's letter sent yesterday asking Jewell to visit King Cove on her first trip to Alaska, the Interior Department agreed today to hold an official meeting with Jewell in King Cove to receive additional information on the medical evacuation benefits of the proposed road directly from the community.
Praising Begich's work on bringing the King Cove issue to the Senate's attention, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ron Wyden said, "I want to recognize the important role Senator Begich played in educating our caucus about this issue. Without his energetic efforts I don't believe we would have been able to move forward today, and we certainly would not have been able to ensure that those concerns were addressed."
In recent weeks, Begich has written to both President Obama and Interior Secretary-nominee Sally Jewell urging that they seriously consider a road to meet the life-safety needs of King Cove. Late last month, Begich also met with Jewell to urge her to keep an open mind on the road proposal. Begich is meeting today in Washington with Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn to discuss the issue.