It’s back: Interior signs new land swap for King Cove road

Map: Shiri Segal/Alaska Public Media

The Interior Department has already signed a new land swap agreement for a King Cove road, days after it gave up its appeal of a court ruling that its prior agreement violated federal law. 

Alaska Public Media has obtained a copy of the new agreement, signed earlier this month by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the CEO of King Cove Corporation. 

As with previous agreements, this one calls for the department to give land in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to the Native corporation in exchange for land of equal value. The intent is to allow the corporation to complete the final 12 miles of road to Cold Bay.

Much of the new agreement is identical to the old one. This time, though, the swap is not limited to 500 acres and the agreement doesn’t say the road is limited to non-commercial use, though it does specify it would be unpaved.

Bernhardt also signed a 20-page document setting out his reasons for approving the land swap. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason blocked the 2018 agreement, saying former secretary Ryan Zinke hadn’t explained his policy, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

Environmental groups have been fighting the road proposal in court for years, and they’ve pledged to continue.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz