Interior Dept. doubles down on Izembek Road

izembek_mapOver the past eight months, the village of King Cove has waged a constant campaign to get a road built through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge — even suing officials in the Interior Department.

Interior has been mostly silent on the issue until now. Federal attorneys filed a motion on Friday to get King Cove’s lawsuit thrown out of court. And Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told her biggest critics that she will not reconsider her decision to block the road.

Jewell sent three letters to residents of King Cove, to Senator Lisa Murkowski and Governor Sean Parnell.

They all carry the same basic message: The Interior Department is committed to fixing transportation, so King Cove residents can catch medevac flights at the all-weather airport on the other side of the refuge. But the Interior Department also doesn’t think a road is the way to get them there.

This is the first time Jewell has made substantive remarks on this issue since she rejected the road plan in December. In her letters, Jewell writes it was her “hope and invitation that King Cove residents would participate in the development of other transportation improvement options.”

Those include a ferry and better helicopter service. But neither would work in bad weather, according to King Cove’s mayor, Henry Mack.

He and several other residents put out a statement criticizing the Interior Secretary. And for now, they’re pressing ahead with their lawsuit — and their effort to reverse Jewell’s decision.

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