Although the federal government is technically “not in service at this time,” Alaskans from King Cove have travelled to Washington, D.C. to witness the historic signing of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge land swap.
The land exchange will allow an 11-mile road to be built to access an all-weather airport at Cold Bay. The road would be a one-lane gravel road for emergency evacuations.
With a bit of work and a touch of luck, the signing will go on, although Department of Interior officials may be moving the venue from DOI offices over to the Senate side of Capitol Hill. Perhaps. They are still working out the details. The federal government is largely not operating until House and Senate Democrats agree to move forward on a budget.
Della Trumble of King Cove Village Corporation, Gov. Bill Walker and Alaska’s entire congressional delegation will join Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Assistant Interior Secretary (and Alaskan) Joe Balash at the ceremony.
Interior has been working on an agreement with the King Cove Corporation to exchange land.
Environmentalists call the road controversial, but it’s far from controversial in Alaska. The state has been fighting for the road for decades and at least 18 people have lost their lives because they were not able to be evacuated from King Cove, which is buffeted by heavy weather regularly. The Cold Bay airport, however, is open most of the year.
During the Obama Administration, Sec. Sally Jewell signed a Dec. 23, 2013 decision to deny the road. That order has been reversed by Sec. Zinke.