• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 22s

King Cove road fight continues in Washington, D.C.

By Heather Hintze 10:25 PM March 26, 2014

Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she will not back down on a life-saving road to an all-weather airport Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell rejected in December

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Lisa Murkowski squared off against Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at a budget hearing on Wednesday.

Murkowski used her time during opening remarks to once again bring up the issue of King Cove’s need for a road to an all-weather airport at nearby Cold Bay.

“This road is non-negotiable. The health and safety of the people of King Cove is non-negotiable,” Murkowski said. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that the needs of these people are taken care of and put first.”

Jewell rejected the road in December, citing concerns that the 10-mile gravel road would go through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

“It is a very, very important and unique habitat and the determination by Fish and Wildlife Service is it would be very disruptive to build a road through that area,” Jewell said.

Since her rejection there have been seven medevacs from King Cove, four of which involved the U.S. Coast Guard landing in severe weather.

“A beating heart is more important than a duck. Anyone who throws any other issue into that is wrong. There is nothing more important than human life,” said Bonita Babcock as she choked back tears.

Babcock is a community health aide at the medical clinic in King Cove. She’s seen firsthand the need for a road when she deals with patients who desperately await a medevac from the Coast Guard during a storm.

Residents said they understand the need to preserve the habitat, but not at the expense of their families’ lives.

“Our ancestors have lived out there for four to five thousand years,” said King Cove Corporation Spokeswoman Della Trumble. “We have Aleut village sites all the way through that corridor from King Cove into Cold Bay. That’s part of who we are. And we were brought up to live off the land, but we were taught to only take what you need so we always had a renewable resource.”

“The notion that you must protect Alaska from Alaska Natives, our First People — it’s insulting,” Murkowski said. “And that’s the way Alaskans feel. We feel insulted that we cannot care for the land and the animals and the birds and still provide for a safe, reliable access.”

Jewell said because King Cove is still 600 miles from the hospital, emergency transportation would still be needed regardless of a road to Cold Bay.

“The medevacs would continue,” she explained. “There is a medical clinic that stabilizes patients and prepares them for transport. The issue with the road is only a factor for medical evacuations where the weather is not conducive to getting people into the King Cove airport, but it’s OK at the Cold Bay airport.”

King Cove residents say that’s that problem: The weather.

A video of a Coast Guard medevac from February shows how bad the weather can get — with extremely dense fog and high winds, sometimes up to 100 mph. Residents said that’s a common occurrence in their village; they think it will take something catastrophic to get Jewell’s attention.

“Unfortunately, we believe that may be what happens, is that someone actually has to die or the Coast Guard, God forbid, crashes with the crew on board with a patient, ” Trumble said. “I hate to think that’s what it’s going to take for the government to understand how important this is for us.”

While Jewell maintains the Coast Guard is a viable alternative to building a road, Murkowski said it’s not. Each Coast Guard medevac costs nearly a quarter-million dollars. She said to make the agency the primary source of King Cove’s medical needs it would take two additional helicopters, at $26 million a piece, and at least half a million dollars a year in per diem costs to house the staff needed.

“We’re not asking for anything that’s over the top. Right now it’s a 10-mile strip that’s needed for safe access for our families,” said Etta Kuzakin.

She knows just how hard it is to get out of King Cove during a medical emergency. Her daughter Sunny Rae just celebrated her first birthday but had a dramatic entry into the world. Kuzakin went into labor during a terrible storm, so bad even the Coast Guard almost didn’t make it in.

Kuzakin said the nurse at the clinic begged the Coast Guard several times before they attempted to land for the emergency. She was taken to Anchorage and Sunny Rae was born just a few hours later by C-section, a surgery the clinic doesn’t have the staff or equipment to handle.

“We’ll keep asking, we’ll keep fighting,” she said. “We will fight, and I hate to use that word, ‘fight.’ We will be here forever.”

Residents have until April 15 to give Jewell a list of alternative solutions to building a road. They said that’s also there chance to present her with evidence that the road is the only solution there is.

“This is a safe and easy way to help our fellow citizens and the only thing standing in the way is our own federal government’s decision to place a higher value on the birds than it does on the health and safety of my state’s citizens and that’s simply wrong,” Murkowski said.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Whittier police patrol Gridwood Forest Fair, review possible future of town’s law enforcement

    by Eric Ruble on Jul 01, 22:16

    The Girdwood Forest Fair is celebrating its 41st year this weekend. Signs outside of the fair read “No Politics. No Religion,” enforcing the idea that the festival is about food, music and fun. Longtime attendees of the fair will likely notice something new — four Whittier Police Department officers patrolling the area. They are in […]

  • Sports

    The Birdman: The man, the myth, the crowd favorite at Mount Marathon

    by Emily Carlson on Jul 01, 21:52

    There’s a lot of characters that run the grueling, punishing and sometimes bloody slog up and down Mount Marathon. Some would say, you have to be a touch crazy to endure the 3,033 foot climb. However, the most popular racer may be the creature known as “The Birdman.” “Birdman is the guy who has his […]

  • Lifestyle

    Daughter of Anchorage survival instructor battling rare cancer

    by Shannon Ballard on Jul 01, 20:52

    For the past 37 years Brian Horner has made his living teaching survival training courses. He’s the founder of Learn to Return Training Systems, Inc., and considers himself an expert in making it out of horrible situations. “I’ve been to Antarctica twice with Norman Vaughn. I’ve climbed with Rob Hall before his Everest tragedy. I’ve looked for […]

  • News

    State threatens oil producer with unprecedented demand

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 01, 19:36

    There is even more tension in the fight to build a natural gas pipeline across Alaska. On Thursday, the state sent a letter to BP and threatened to let the oil producer’s operating plan expire in late-fall if it doesn’t explain how they plan to market their natural gas. In the letter from the Alaska […]

  • News

    New trampoline park continues Northway Mall revitalization

    by Heather Hintze on Jul 01, 19:34

    East Anchorage’s Northway Mall will soon be home to a new trampoline park. Shockwave is opening at the end of July. After three solid months of work in the old Office Max building the features are starting to take shape. “This is the quarter pipe trampoline that goes eight feet up the wall,” owner Barry […]

  • News

    Obama administration discloses number of civilian deaths caused by drones

    by CBS News on Jul 01, 18:53

    The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) says that the number of civilian deaths in Pakistan, Yemen and Africa, as a result of U.S. counterterrorism strikes is between 64-116, between Jan. 20, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2015. These numbers do not, however, include Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria, where the government has conducted thousands of air attacks. […]

  • News

    Family sets funeral arrangements for murder victim

    by Daniella Rivera on Jul 01, 18:17

    The family of murder victim Jacqueline Goodwin says there will be a viewing at Legacy Funeral Home on Saturday, July 2, at 9 a.m. They invite her friends to attend and pay their respects. The woman who says she took care of Goodwin, Geraldine Turner, says Goodwin will be laid to rest in Kotzebue, next […]

  • Lifestyle

    The Hungry Chum: Thai food truck brings city flavors to Girdwood

    by The Hungry Chum on Jul 01, 16:32

    It was like a treasure hunt, with hand-drawn signs every few blocks that eventually led us between two buildings, past a rhubarb bush and a large, lazy husky. Then we found it — in a little courtyard sat the small pink and blue trailer. Known as Cheech & Nong’s Aroy-D Thai food truck, or any […]