Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott joined residents of King Cove in Washington, D.C. Thursday morning to make another plea for a road between King Cove and the all-weather airport in Cold Bay.
Mallott likened the struggle to other public land-use controversies, in which, he said the federal government puts another concern ahead of local Alaskan needs.
“Our lives are minimized, marginalized and in many ways consciously, consciously, determined to be unimportant, to the point where we become faceless,” he said.
Mallott spoke at a hearing called by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Alaska’s congressional delegation has tried for decades to get the government to agree to a road. They say residents need a way out in a medical emergency.
But 11 miles of the road would have to be built in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ruled out a road in 2013, citing in part the area’s importance to waterfowl and other species. Jewell said she’s trying to find an alternative.
Aleutians East Borough Mayor Stanley Mack says other alternatives make no sense, given King Cove’s often harsh weather and the realities of boat travel.
“Strapping an injured patient in a gurney and hoisting them up to the dock on a boat, which can be as much as 25 feet, is always a scary situation,” Mack said. “This is basically what we have to do. Or putting elders in a crab pot and using a crane to hoist them to the top of the dock is frightening.”
Sen. Murkowski said she’s not giving up. She didn’t say what her next move will be, but she noted that Jewell won’t be Interior secretary much longer.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Alaska Congressman Don Young said the secretary is valuing geese over people. Young threatened to bring in the heavy equipment and build the road himself.