A new bill to create a road for King Cove is advancing in the U.S. House. Like many before it, this bill would authorize a land trade to acquire an 11-mile corridor through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, in Southwest Alaska. Congressman Don Young told his colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee the road would save lives by connecting King Cove to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay when there’s a medical emergency.
“Just put yourself in that position, as you sit here… If you’d like to have your mother, or your sister, or your brother or your aunt or someone die because there isn’t a road that’s 11 miles long.”
The bill authorizes an equal-value trade for the 206-acre corridor, more than half of which is designated as wilderness, the category of highest federal protection. In exchange for the corridor, the refuge could get up to 43,000 acres of state land.
Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, said a road would harm an estuary important to several species of migratory birds. Grijalva said the bill would bypass the National Environmental Policy Act and ignore the exhaustive environmental review conducted during the Obama administration.
Former Interior Sec. Sally Jewell rejected a land trade for the road in 2013, saying it would cause irreversible damage to the refuge.
President Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, has already issued a permit for a study of where the road should go.
Young’s bill passed the House Resources Committee last week by a party-line vote of 23 to 14.