The Alaska House of Representatives passed a resolution last week urging Congress to approve the land swap and construction of the road. The state Senate is deciding whether it will support the resolution as well.
The Senate Resource Committee heard public testimony Monday afternoon concerning a federal push to build a road between King Cove and Cold Bay. Last week the state House unanimously passed a resolution urging Congress to approve the land swap and construction of the road.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon is the resolution’s sponsor and offered remarks to the committee.
“It basically expresses the Legislature’s appreciation and support for legislation that Senator Murkowski and Representative Young have introduced, legislation that would allow for the land exchange necessary to complete what is essentially about a 30 mile road connecting King Cove and Cold Bay,” said Edgmon, explaining the resolution. “About 18 miles of that road has essentially been constructed, sort of sitting there unused because of the remaining 12 miles that needs to be constructed.”
The proposed road would run through a Congressionally established wilderness area in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young’s bill would allow for 43,000 acres of state land to be put into refuge and wilderness status in return for the less than 400 acres required for a road corridor.
King Cove residents have asked for the road for more than 30 years, saying it would allow them to access the all-weather airport at Cold Bay. King Cove Mayor, Henry Mack, spoke in support.
“We have winds in excess of 50 miles an hour on a regular basis,” Mack said. “The result is that our small King Cove airport, precariously perched adjacent to volcanic mountains, is unable for about 30 to 40 percent of the time for a single engine plane to make its scheduled flights in and out of the community. This translates to about 100 days a year when getting in and out of King Cove cannot occur.”
Mike Sallee of Ketchikan provided the only testimony opposed to the resolution.
“I basically had a question in my mind from the start of this thing. And that question is, ‘What is it about King Cove that apparently justifies so much political effort being expended to grant that community an exception to long standing environmental protections in order to punch a road across a critical habitat of a national wildlife refuge.”
Senate Resources voted unanimously to move the resolution out of committee.