Sen. Lisa Murkowski has promised to continue fighting for a road connecting King Cove to Cold Bay.
In her annual address before the State Legislature on Wednesday, Murkowski described the Interior Department’s decision to block the project as “heartless and wrong.” She says it’s an extreme case of federal overreach.
“Now the King Cove decision is more than a road,” said Murkowski. “I think we all recognize, it is more than a road. It is emblematic as to how the federal government believes that it has to somehow protect Alaska from Alaskans.”
The 10-mile gravel road would run through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, and it’s long been a source of contention between the federal government and Alaska supporters of the project. King Cove residents say having a connection to a nearby airport is a matter of public safety, while the Interior Department and environmental groups believe the road would damage bird habitat and set a bad precedent for refuges.
Murkowski has made construction of the road a major priority for her office. She’s repeatedly called for the Interior Department to agree to a land swap that would allow the project to go through. And last year, she escorted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to King Cove to show her how difficult it is to medevac people from the remote community.
Murkowski got applause from state lawmakers when she said she plans to keep the pressure on.
“I have been told to get past this issue. Let’s just get past this issue. Let me tell you: That is not going happen,” said Murkowski. “In addition to my role as mediator, and ambassador, and all that, I can also be a hell-raiser. And I am going to be a hell-raiser on this. I am going to channel my inner Ted Stevens, and we are going to get this road.”
After her address to the Legislature, Murkowski told reporters that she’s thinking about putting holds on future nominations by President Barack Obama until the road issue is addressed.