OPIOID SERIES:

Sen. Murkowski’s fight over Alaska road heats up

The fight over a proposed road through a federal wildlife refuge in Alaska has intensified, with Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators press administration on mental health parity Overnight Energy: Watchdogs unveil findings on EPA, Interior controversies | GAO says EPA violated law with soundproof booth | IG says Zinke could have avoided charter flight | GOP chair probes Pruitt's four email addresses GOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe MORE (R-Alaska) saying she’s “appalled” at the Interior Department’s continued refusal to permit the road.

Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellInterior Dept. officials call CNN correspondent 'a f---ing idiot' Zinke and his wife took security detail on vacation to Turkey, Greece: report Zinke: I never took a private jet anywhere MORE refused to budge Wednesday, sending a letter to Murkowski and Alaska officials to reaffirm her December rejection of the 17-mile dirt road from King Cove to an airport in southwestern Alaska.

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Murkowski, and her father before her when he was in her seat, has fought Interior for years to allow the road to be built to provide King Cove with access to an all-weather airport for emergencies.

“I sincerely appreciate and share the concerns about public safety and emergency response expressed by advocates of the proposed road,” Jewell wrote in the Wednesday letter.

“While the department stands by the decision and will not reopen the final record of decision, I want to reiterate our commitment to continuing to work with you, with the Alaskan communities, and across the relevant federal agencies to evaluate and develop other transportation improvement options for the residents of King Cove and Cold Bay,” she said.

Jewell expressed frustration that Murkowski, state officials and local residents have been unwilling to work with Interior to find an alternative to the road.

Murkowski, the top Republican on the committee that oversees Interior, was not happy.

“After months of waiting, I am appalled that this is the best response the entire Interior Department could muster,” Murkowski said in a Thursday statement.

“Secretary Jewell promised to help the people of King Cove last December, then went silent for months” she said. “As of yesterday, we know that she and her team have done almost nothing to protect the health and safety of King Cove families, yet remain unwilling to reconsider what is by far the best solution — a road.”

Jewell’s Wednesday letter was the first response to Murkowski after numerous of letters since the December decision, Murkowski said.

Local residents, businesses and Alaska native tribes sued Interior in June to challenge the road’s denial.