Delegation Will Continue to Fight for Life-Saving Road for King Cove

June 4, 2020
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, today released the following statements after a federal judge ruled against a U.S. Department of the Interior land exchange agreement needed to facilitate a short, gravel, life-saving road that will connect King Cove, Alaska, to the all-weather airport in nearby Cold Bay.

“This decision is yet another bitter disappointment for the good people of King Cove,” Murkowski said. “I continue to believe the Department of the Interior has full authority under existing law to complete this land exchange, that the federal government has an obligation to protect local residents’ health and safety, and that a gravel, one-lane, life-saving road is the best way to meaningfully accomplish that. I refuse to give up on helping the people of King Cove.”

“The 11-mile King Cove road has been unfortunately caught up in the courts for years, risking the wellbeing and in some cases, the very lives of the residents of King Cove,” Sullivan said. “This decision was based on administrative process technicalities and upholds Obama-era arguments—which unconscionably prioritized wildlife over human lives. Instead, the Department of Interior’s policy change to approve the land exchange was reasonable and properly balanced refuge priorities with allowing a single-lane, life-saving gravel road. I remain confident that the Department of the Interior can and will authorize the road, and we in Congress and the people of King Cove will continue to fight for it.”

“I have long believed that the Department of the Interior has full authority to complete this land exchange on behalf of the people of King Cove,” Young said. “For these Alaskans, having access to a road can save their lives in the event of medical emergencies and natural disasters. Although this decision is deeply disappointing, I will continue working with the Alaska Delegation and the Administration to ensure that King Cove’s families can stay connected to the rest of our state, and enjoy the sense of safety and security they deserve.”

As of October 2019, the residents of King Cove have endured 113 emergency medevacs, including 33 carried out by the U.S. Coast Guard, since the Obama administration heartlessly rejected a congressionally-approved opportunity to allow the road to proceed in December 2013.

King Cove is located between two volcanic mountains, about 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. The small gravel airstrip in King Cove is typically closed more than 100 days each year by strong winds, turbulence, fog, rain, and other severe weather. Even flights that are not canceled are routinely delayed by dangerous conditions. By comparison, the all-weather airport in Cold Bay, which is less than 30 miles away from King Cove, is home to one of the longest runways in the state and closed an average of just 10 days per year.