The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo: Kristine Sowl / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Environment | National | Politics

House panel takes up bill to approve road for Alaska Native village





A bill to authorize a road for a Native village in Alaska is back on the agenda in Washington, D.C.

Residents of King Cove, an Aleut community, have been pushing for the road for decades. They say it would save lives by making it easier for residents to access health care and other services, particularly in emergency situations.

"It is the most vital element of missing infrastructure in King Cove to our well-being and will change our cost of living so that our residents can have a real, safe life and not always have to worry every time we risk our lives to travel for medical and health safety reasons – an activity that Lower 48 Americans take for granted every day of their lives," Della Trumble, the business manager for the King Cove Village Corporation, said at a hearing on infrastructure last Thursday.

King Cove has an airstrip but poor weather keeps flights grounded for a good portion of the year. That means residents must travel by boat to the airport in Cold Bay.

But even that journey can be treacherous due to conditions on the waters. And once people arrive at Cold Bay, they have to climb up an unsteady ladder to reach the dock, a tough move for elders and those in need of medical attention.

Still, the road has been extremely controversial because it would cut through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a federal property. The Obama administration rejected the proposal on the eve of the Christmas holiday in 2013, citing concerns that had been raised by environmental and conservation groups.

With a new leader in the White House, the state's all-Republican Congressional delegation is optimistic for change. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) brought up the issue when she met with President Donald Trump last month, according to a press release from her office.

But the new administration hasn't stated its position on the road and no one from the Department of the Interior will be testifying on H.R.218, the King Cove Road Land Exchange Act, when it comes up for a hearing on Wednesday. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who introduced the measure on the first day of the 115th Congress, and Trumble are among the witnesses.

The bill is one of four on the agenda at the hearing, which takes place at 2pm in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. The full witness list follows:
Panel I
The Honorable Don Young
Member of Congress, Alaska’s At-Large District

The Honorable Mike Simpson
Member of Congress, Idaho’s 2nd District

The Honorable Bill Keating
Member of Congress, Massachusetts’s 9th District

The Honorable Paul Cook
Member of Congress, California’s 8th District

The Honorable Pete Aguilar
Member of Congress, California’s 31st District

Panel II
Mr. Seth T. Taylor
Selectman
Town of Chatham, Massachusetts
Chatham, Massachusetts

Myron Naneng
Former President and Chairman of the Waterfowl Conservation Committee Association of Village Council Presidents
Bethel, Alaska

Daniel B. Cozad
General Manager
San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District
Redlands, California

Della Trumble
Business Manager
King Cove Native Corporation
King Cove, Alaska

House Subcommittee on Federal Lands Notice:
Legislative Hearing on Four Bills (April 5, 2017)

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Alaska Native village still seeking approval for 'life-saving road' (01/11)
Judge sides with DOI in dispute over Alaska Native village road (9/9)