Murkowski Fights for King Cove Road
Senior senator says extreme measures may be called for to ensure Interior Department listens to Alaskans
ANCHORAGE - “’No action’ recommended.” That’s the decision from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a road from the Aleutian community of King Cove to a nearby airport at Cold Bay. And it’s a decision Department of Interior Ken Salazar stands behind.
“I was devastated… when I got the call this morning,” Della Trumball said. She’s a resident of King Cove, a spokesperson for the King Cove Native Corporation, and a member of the Agdaadux Tribe of King Cove, and she’s been fighting for the road for decades. Despite Salazar’s decision, she said the residents of King Cove aren’t giving up.
“We can only be optimistic at this point... as we have been through this whole process.”
She said Salazar “listened to the biologists... but the Secretary of the Interior did not listen to the people of Alaska.”
“What really annoys me is that folks in the administration would much rather spend time talking to the biologists than they would the people who live there in King Cove,” Murkwoski said in an interview Thrusday afternoon. “The fact that the secretary never agreed to meet with them in all their visits [to Washington, D.C.] is, really kind of sad.”
“I don't know if Ken Salazar wants to do this, or if he would just as soon punt it,” Murkowski said, referring to Salazar’s plan to step down from his position at the end of the month. “It's difficult for him, he's going to take some heat, and I'm going make sure that he takes plenty of heat” until the issue is resolved, the senator said.
President Obama has already named Salazar’s successor: REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell. Murkowski said she’s already speaking to Jewell about the needs of Alaskans.
“I spoke with Sally Jewell by telephone today, I laid out the background, I laid out my concerns, and I made it very, very clear to her that I will not rest until the people of King Cove are respected.”
Jewell's confirmation will come before the Senate later this year. Murkwoski said she'll do what it takes to make sure the needs of Alaskans are heard by the Department of the Interior, even if that means doing something she believes is extreme, like putting the confirmation on hold until the department acts.
“I'm usually deferential to the president's process in naming his own cabinet,” Murkowski said, “but I do believe that when an issue is this pressing, to the people that you represent, that you need to look to the available tools that are in the tool box, and if this is one mechanism that I can gain the attention of those who are ultimately making the decision, I will use that.”
“Does that mean I'm going to place a hold? I don't know,” she said. “Does it mean it's a tool in the toolbox? Absolutely.”
Murkowski stressed that she wants to work with the department, and not be an adversary. “I do not put holds on individuals or on bills lightly,” she said. “I reserve this for unique situations.”
Until then, Murkowski said she’s doing what she can with her colleagues in the Senate, the Interior, and the administration—she said she spoke briefly with Vice President Joe Biden on the Senate floor today—to help get the residents of King Cove their road.