An intense lobbying campaign by Alaska’s congressional delegation has paid off for residents of the Aleutian community of King Cove. A group of them will have the chance to meet face-to-face with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at the end of the month. As King Cove Corporation administrator Della Trumble explains, the goal is to convince Salazar to allow a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
“Hopefully have him say yes, we can have this road, and not go with what [the U.S.] Fish and Wildlife [Service] has… what their recommendation is, which is the no action alternative,” Trumble says.
The group will be ten to twelve people, including several who can speak personally to the challenges of getting from King Cove to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay. Trumble says she hopes their stories will get the Secretary to listen.
“As an example, one of the elders that’s traveling with us had gone to Cold Bay on a boat with his wife who was being medevaced out of King Cove. And basically they got off-lifted from a crab boat, in a crab pot, from the boat to the dock in Cold Bay. And that’s just not acceptable.”
Ultimately, the Secretary of the Interior is responsible for deciding whether the project moves forward. Since the Fish and Wildlife Service announced their opposition to the road earlier this month, all three members of Alaska’s Congressional delegation have been pressuring Salazar to override their analysis. He’s expected to leave his post sometime in March, and hasn’t said whether he’ll make a decision on the project before then.
If he doesn’t, both Senator Lisa Murkowski and Representative Don Young have threatened to hold up congressional confirmation of his replacement, Sally Jewell.
The delegation from King Cove will meet with Salazar on February 28. They had already been planning a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. for later this spring, but it was pushed up in light of the meeting.