The State of Alaska informed the federal government that it intends to sue over access to a potentially life-saving road between King Cove and Cold Bay, villages in Alaska’s Aleutian Chain. Until now, the road has been a federal, rather than state issue.
In December, the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell denied the road, 11 miles of which would cut through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. All three members of Alaska’s congressional delegation cried foul. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been fighting the most diligently to allow residents to build the road. Environmentalists have been pushing back.
Cold Bay has an all-weather airport. King Cove does not. When residents need to be evacuated to Anchorage or Outside for medical care, the Coast Guard sends a helicopter, which is often dangerous and costly. Already this year there have been five such evacuations. According to Murkowski’s office, each Coast Guard transport costs as much as $210,000.
Governor Sean Parnell today announced that the State of Alaska has filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government over access through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, based on a historic right of way. A strong advocate for the life-saving road between King Cove and Cold Bay, the governor has called the Department of the Interior’s failure to approve a road that would provide emergency medical access for residents of King Cove “unconscionable.”
“In just the last several weeks, serious health-related evacuations have shown just how critical a road for medical evacuations is for residents,” Governor Parnell said. “The State continues to explore all potential avenues to help the people of King Cove. The notice of intent to sue relates to one option the State is evaluating, but the fastest and surest way to provide emergency medical access for King Cove residents is for Secretary Jewell to reconsider her decision placing the possible temporary disturbance of birds above the health and safety of Alaskans. The State will pursue all options to help Alaska residents.”
The notice is required to be submitted at least 180 days prior to the State being allowed to bring suit against the federal government asserting a right of way based on historic use under Revised Statute 2477, a section of the Mining Act of 1866. A copy of the notice is available at:
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