Alaska House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, who represents the people of King Cove in the Alaska Legislature, seems to have nothing to say today about the historic signing of the land swap that will provide King Cove with the route needed for a short road to the nearest airport at Cold Bay. Well into the afternoon, he had issued no congratulatory statement.
When he gaveled the House to order, he also ignored the significance of the day.
The land swap took place this morning at the Department of the Interior, with King Cove community spokesperson Della Trumble, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, and Gov. Bill Walker in attendance, along with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and many other Alaskans, including Sen. Dan Sullivan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman Don Young.
The swap was important enough to keep Interior staff busy all weekend figuring out how to move it forward even if the government shutdown continued.
The 11-12 mile road has been a priority of the King Cove residents and the entire State of Alaska for decades. A single-lane gravel road would connect to existing roads in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and to a life-saving airport.
The road is far from built, but without the land swap between the federal government and the village corporation, it was a nonstarter.
While the community has a viable economy with fish processing, many people have lost their lives and many more have had serious medical complications because they could not get to the airport at Cold Bay during severe weather.
Although Speaker Edgmon remained silent on King Cove’s victory, his challenger William Weatherby, made a statement on Facebook:
“I am so happy to see such monumental progress happening towards the goal of a much-needed, life saving, road between King Cove and Cold Bay. I was there in 2016 on a stormy couple of days and saw the need first hand. I also heard the concerns of the possible negative impact,” Weatherby said.
“King Cove is a wonderful place for a community. I met some great people there. I applaud their use of hydroelectric power. I wish them safe travels and a prosperous future. I also enjoyed my short stay in Cold Bay. I appreciated so much the great customer service I received at the airport. I plan to return this summer,” Weatherby said.
Edgmon was at work today, but he evidently didn’t have anything to say about this historic day for his district.
Although the Democratic majority has at least five staff members who are assigned to media and messaging, there was nothing from that side of the aisle well into the afternoon.
The Alaska House minority Republicans took a different approach: “Alaskan lives will be saved with this road. Alaska House Republicans all voted ‘yes’ on a resolution urging this action last year!”
Senator Lyman Hoffman, who represents the district, also applauded the move:
“It’s about time the federal bureaucracy acted to prioritize the life, health and safety of the residents of King Cove. I am thankful to Alaska’s federal delegation – Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Don Young – for their successful efforts in moving this life-saving road project forward,” Hoffman said.
Even Gov. Bill Walker had nice things to say about the Trump Administration’s swift action, which came just a year after Trump took office: “This is a paradigm shift. For decades, the federal government acted in an irresponsible way by placing a higher value on appeasing people who will never get within a thousand miles of King Cove over the health and safety of those who actually live there. Now, federal officials are sitting at the same table and working with us on this issue and many others.”