Vil­lage wants road in wildlife refuge

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAN JOLING

AN­CHOR­AGE, ALASKA | A re­mote Alaska vil­lage that has been re­buffed in ef­forts to build a road through a na­tional wildlife refuge will try again when Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump takes of­fice.

The com­mu­nity of King Cove, near the tip of the Alaska Penin­sula, for decades has sought a road through Izem­bek Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, an in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized haven for mi­gra­tory wa­ter­fowl.

Flights into King Cove are no­to­ri­ously un­pre­dictable be­cause of strong winds and moun­tains. Com­mu­nity lead­ers in the vil­lage of 900, backed by the state, want a road through the refuge so sick or in­jured res­i­dents have land ac­cess to an all-weather air­port at nearby Cold Bay. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­jected the road plan.

“We are op­ti­mistic that a change of ad­min­is­tra­tion will mean we will fi­nally get to the fin­ish line,” Della Trum­ble, spokes­woman for the King Cove Corp., an Alaska Na­tive vil­lage cor­po­ra­tion, said in an an­nounce­ment. “This is­sue is and al­ways has been about sav­ing lives.”

Congress in 1997 ad­dressed the King Cove trans­porta­tion is­sue with a $37.5 mil­lion ap­pro­pri­a­tion for wa­ter ac­cess to Cold Bay that in­cluded a $9 mil­lion hov­er­craft. The Aleu­tians East Bor­ough took it out of ser­vice af­ter de­cid­ing it was too ex­pen­sive and un­re­li­able to op­er­ate.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice in 2013 con­cluded that a 22-mile road over a nar­row isth­mus in the refuge could cause ir­rev­o­ca­ble dam­age to the wa­ter­shed of nearby ocean la­goons. They in­clude the 150-square-mile Izem­bek La­goon, which pro­vides one of the world’s largest beds of eel­grass, a rich food source for Pa­cific brant, en­dan­gered Steller’s ei­ders and other mi­gra­tory birds.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups sub­mit­ted thou­sands of com­ments op­pos­ing the pro­posed sin­gle-lane gravel road for the ef­fect on the refuge and the prece­dent it would set for tear­ing into other na­tional refuges or parks. Their op­po­si­tion re­mains.

“The pro­posed road would bi­sect a des­ig­nated wilder­ness and cause ir­re­triev­able dam­age to the Izem­bek Na­tional Wildlife Refuge,” said Pa­trick Lavin, Alaska rep­re­sen­ta­tive for De­fend­ers of Wildlife.

Three years ago, In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Sally Jewell re­jected a pro­posed land swap that would have traded refuge lands for thou­sands of acres of state and pri­vate land. The trade would have given the fed­eral gov­ern­ment 97.5 square miles for less than 3 square miles of refuge.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.