Sen. Murkowski maintains hold threat for Interior nominee

Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she didn’t ask Interior Secretary nominee Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA MORE for any assurances regarding the road when the two met Wednesday.

Instead, Murkowski said she hopes outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will resolve the issue.

Interior said earlier this month that it does not intend to permit a land swap that would allow completion of a road connecting King Cove and Cold Bay. The planned road would run through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

King Cove residents will meet with Salazar Thursday to air their concerns. They hope to persuade him into accepting the land exchange.

They say the 10-mile stretch of road through Izembek is needed to reach Cold Bay’s all-weather airport. They contend other suggestions from the Fish & Wildlife Service — such as a ferry — are unfeasible.

Until November 2010, King Cove residents had used a hovercraft to get to the Cold Bay airport. But the vehicle became too expensive to maintain, and it performed poorly in high-wind and high-sea conditions.

The ferry option also would not work, said Brad Gilman, an attorney representing the Aleutians East Boroughs.

The Fish & Wildlife Service said earlier this month that the borough had indicated a ferry “could be more technically and financially viable than a hovercraft.”

But Gilman said the borough had only said it would look into a ferry. He said it floated the idea because the borough needed some sort of contingency plan to keep a valuable permit.

“It’s not a realistic alternative. It never was. It was a paper exercise,” Gilman, of Reston, Va.-based Robertson, Monagle, and Eastbaugh PC, said Wednesday.

Completing the stretch of road slated to run through Izembek would cut the commute to Cold Bay’s airport down to 40 minutes, said Della Trumble, spokeswoman with the King Cove Corporation and Agdaagux Tribal Council of King Cove.

“And you’re guaranteed to get there,” she said, noting the struggles many in King Cove endured getting to that airport.