King Cove resident in critical condition as Murkowski continues battle over road to Cold Bay

A King Cove resident is in critical condition in Anchorage after a medical incident in the small Aleutian-chain village of King Cove on Friday night. The wind was blowing hard, but the Coast Guard was able to get a helicopter into the village to transport 62-year-old Irene Newman to Cold Bay, where she was then transferred via life flight to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

As of 10 a.m. on Monday, Newman was still in critical condition, but is alert and responding, said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack, who is Newman’s brother-in-law and who is currently at the Native Medical Center.

“It was pretty traumatic,” Mack said. “The Coast Guard put their lives at risk,” he said. And they likely wouldn’t have had to go to such lengths if the federal government were to allow for a small gravel road to be built from King Cove to Cold Bay, he said.

It’s another incident among many that has Alaska’s congressional delegation determined to go to battle with the U.S. Interior Department to allow for the road.

For dozens of years, residents of King Cove —  a village of about 950 on the Aleutian chain — have been lobbying the federal government to allow for the road to Cold Bay, about 22 miles away. But because it cuts through a slice of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, they have been told they can’t. The state of Alaska and King Cove Native Corp. recently offered a land exchange. They would give up nearly 60,000 acres of land for the nearly 2,000 needed for the road, which would include 200 acres from the Refuge.

In December, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected the deal, saying that the road has the potential to harm the Pacific black brant, which is a small goose, and other wildlife in the refuge.

Both Murkowski and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich voted to confirm Jewell. Both objected to the decision. There are numerous stories of deaths and near-deaths because of the lack of a road.

Murkowski continues to keep the issue in the spotlight. “I won’t give up,” Murkowski said recently. “I will not get over it.”

Her current battle is trying to block Rhea Suh’s nomination to be assistant Interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, the agency that conducted the environmental impact statement on the road.

It’s unclear if Sen. Mark Begich supports Suh’s nomination. His office did not answer repeated questions about it. If he does, it will likely be used by his GOP opponents in the 2014 election.

Given wide Democratic support for Suh and filibuster reform, it’s unclear how Murkowski will prevail. But apparently she has something in mind.

“If I revealed my whole strategy, there would be no surprise and nothing for you all to work on. I can’t divulge everything,” Murkowski told reporters, according to Politico.

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6 thoughts on “King Cove resident in critical condition as Murkowski continues battle over road to Cold Bay

  1. B Swanson

    Who says a road would be passable with gale force winds and white-out conditions? Residents tell me they often can’t keep the runway clear, or even drive from their house to the school or clinic? Why does everyone assume that a road is the answer? Why are we not demanding a road to every small village in Alaska? Don’t they deserve a road too? People who choose to live in remote locations cannot expect to have the same access to facilities as those who live in urban areas.

  2. Happy Days

    This King Cove road issue in unbelieveable. I wish that our congressiona get together and resolve this issue. It could be a matter of life or death. I am disappointed with the Depat of Interior’s uncaring attotude. Couldn’t the road be used for emergencies ? Come on people, please be reasonable.

  3. Doing right

    Wish that Alaska’s junior senator had the empathy and courage to fight for the citizens of King Cove. Begich hasn’t done anything but be a lap dog for Obama.

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