WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The Trump administration is taking the controversial road. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed off on a land transfer Monday that will allow for the construction of a road in Alaska from King Cove to Cold Bay. Opponents of the road say it could harm wildlife in the area, as building would take place in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. But Alaska leaders that traveled to Washington for the deal signing say this is about human life.
“In times of emergencies, you don’t have to hold your breath and wonder are you going to make it or not,” said Della Trumble, a King Cove resident.
Trumble and other Alaskan leaders say King Cove’s isolation has lead to 18 deaths. Hazardous conditions sometimes make it impossible to connect with other communities for basic services. Governor Bill Walker (I-AK) says this is a momentous day.
“This really tells the people in that region that they matter. That their safety and their health matter,” said Walker.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) says he has been pushing for the road for 35 years. He says King Cove has suffered because of environmental concerns.
“This is a cause celebre for the environmental crazies. And they *are crazy because they put a goose life over a human life,” said Young.
Young calls them “environmental crazies”, but opponents of the construction maintain that the road will have negative impacts.
“We see this as a very dangerous precedent that turns over public land held in trust for all Americans that protects iconic wildlife for a road that would provide very little benefit to the community,” said Adam Kolton from Alaska Wilderness League.
Kolton says other options like a ferry would be a safer connection to Cold Bay for residents of King Cove. He says a road would be dangerous in bad weather, a point refuted by supporters of the road.
“This is a bad deal for taxpayers, this is a bad deal for the environment. This is not the safer option for people in the area,” said Kolton.
It is expected to take months of surveys and tests before construction on the road begins.