Interior Secretary nominee: King Cove Road a priority


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A source connected to President-elect Donald Trump expressed optimism today that the road between King Cove and Cold Bay will be a top priority early in the Trump Administration.

The source, who spoke to Must Read Alaska on the condition of anonymity, has spoken directly with Rep. Ryan Zinke, the Interior Secretary nominee, and received assurances that the life-saving road is one of Zinke’s top priorities.

The confirmation hearing for Zinke are underway in Washington, D.C., where he was intensely grilled by Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Three years ago, current Secretary Sally Jewell rejected the road that would connect King Cove residents with the all-weather airport in Cold Bay. Many Alaskans saw it as evidence that the Obama Administration cares more about the birds of the Izembek Refuge than it does for the lives at risk in windy and foggy King Cove community.

Zinke is being pressured by the Alaska DC delegation to commit to building the 11-mile emergency gravel road.

King Cove Mayor Henry Mack last month expressed hope for the Trump Administration coming to the aid of the community: “Unlike Secretary Jewell, we believe President-elect Donald Trump and Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke value human lives as well as birds,” he told reporters. “We are confident they will take action because they understand that the lives of King Cove residents matter. We’re encouraged that we may finally get access to a small life-saving road corridor, and our dream of safe passage to the Cold Bay airport will become a reality.”

King Cove residents have lobbied for a road for two generations. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013 decided the road could cause damage the wetlands and lagoons of the 150-square-mile Izembek Lagoon It is a seasonal home to various migratory birds.

Environmental groups remain opposed to the road, and Secretary Jewell agreed with them, and even refused a land swap that would have traded state land for federal land. The federal government would have received 97.5 square miles of state land and given up 3 square miles of federal land.

The environmentalists’ opposition remains.

“Check back for updates on this story.