It’s back: US Interior Dept. signs new land swap deal for King Cove road

(Map by Shiri Segal/Alaska Public Media)

The U.S. Interior Department has already signed a new land swap agreement for a King Cove road, days after it gave up its appeal of a court ruling that its prior agreement violated federal law.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. (Creative Commons photo by Bureau of Reclamation)

Alaska Public Media has obtained a copy of the new agreement, signed earlier this month by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the CEO of King Cove Corporation.

As with previous agreements, this one calls for the department to give land in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to the Native corporation in exchange for land of equal value. The intent is to allow the corporation to complete the final 12 miles of road to Cold Bay.

Much of the new agreement is identical to the old one. This time, though, the swap is not limited to 500 acres, and the agreement doesn’t say the road is limited to non-commercial use — though it does specify it would be unpaved.

Bernhardt also signed a 20-page document setting out his reasons for approving the land swap. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason blocked the 2018 agreement, saying former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hadn’t explained his policy, thus violating the Administrative Procedures Act.

Environmental groups have been fighting the road proposal in court for years, and they’ve pledged to continue.

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