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King Cove sues to open road through refuge

By Heather Hintze 3:12 PM June 4, 2014

The community of King Cove is suing Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell over access to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

The City of King Cove, along with residents and two Alaska tribes and local governments, filed the lawsuit Wednesday morning.

It not only names Jewell, but also includes representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge manager.

King Cove wants a 10-mile, one-lane gravel road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to an all-weather airport in Cold Bay. Residents said it’s their only way to have safe, reliable access to health care.  Right now, in an emergency many people have to be medically evacuated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Jewell visited the village last August. She asked residents to come up with a list of alternative solutions — like a hovercraft or the Coast Guard — because she won’t grant access to the federal lands.

Residents maintain the road is their only way.

“I’m at the point now I’m insulted for everything she’s asking for because we’ve already given her everything,” said Etta Kuzakin. “I’m at the point of just being tired. Look at us seriously, take us seriously and stop ignoring us because we’re not going anywhere.”

Kuzakin had to be medevaced out when she was pregnant, and would have lost her daughter had she not gotten to a hospital in Anchorage.

She said her community will continue the fight no matter how long it takes.

“I think she’s [Jewell’s] hoping we’ll just turn over and just be done. The lawsuit is a way to say, ‘No, we won’t be turning over. No, we won’t be we going away, ever.’ It’s something we need and we will get,” Kuzakin said.

Jewell and the other defendants have 60 days to respond to the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Interior said the agency is not allowed to comment on ongoing litigation.

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