Alaskans sue Interior over road denial

A group representing Alaska native tribes, corporations and residents of King Cove has sued the Interior Department in federal court for refusing to allow an 11-mile road to be built through a wildlife refuge.

King Cove residents have pushed for years for the road to Cold Bay, which has the closest all-weather airport, the Anchorage Daily News reported. King Cove’s airport cannot handle night time or poor-weather flights, which are often necessary for major medical emergencies.

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“This is about protecting the lives of human beings,” Della Trumble, spokeswoman for for the Agdaagux Tribe of King Cove and the King Cove native corporation, said in a statement. “Secretary Jewell’s decision has violated her trust responsibility to protect the health and well-being of Alaska Natives.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has relentlessly lobbied for the road that her predecessor and father, Frank Murkowski, first called for in the 1990s.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell denied the request last year, despite an offer to add 60,000 acres to the wildlife refuge in exchange for 200 acres for the road.

Jewell said at the time that the road would hurt eel grass beds that Pacific black brant and emperor geese use for nesting, the Daily News said. She asked locals for alternatives to the road, but ideas such as boats and a hovercraft also failed in bad weather.