Walker talks King Cove road, resources and legislator pay
Gov. Bill Walker will be in Washington, D.C. on Monday for what he hopes are final signatures for a life-saving road connecting Aleutian communities King Cove and Cold Bay.
“It does feel very good, but I can’t quite celebrate until I see dry ink on some paper,” Walker said Friday. “It’s very close. I hope the threat of a government shutdown doesn’t impact it in some way."
Walker will join Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Alaska’s Congressional delegation and Della Trumble of the King Cove Native Corp. The 12-mile gravel road has brought Alaska national attention because it cuts through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
Community leaders, members of Alaska’s Legislature, plus Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young have pushed for years to get to the road built.
“It feels very good to be that close to the finish line,” Walker said. “We’re anxious to have this piece of it taken care of.”
One day after delivering his fourth State of the State, Walker further discussed several topics including, the status of a project to deliver North Slope natural gas for export delivery, cutting lawmakers pay for failure to pass a budget within 90 days, and Pebble Mine.
Walker stands by the progress underscored by a recent agreement with business leaders in China, even as lawmakers contend he has done communicated enough.
Walker said he’s had recent meetings with BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance and Hillcorp Energy Co. CEO Jeffery Hildebrand in his conference room and later at the governor’s mansion for dinner.
“We’ve had good individual meetings with the companies,” Walker said. “We walked them through our fiscal situation. We talked about how the gas line fits in the future of our economy, not just for the activity for construction but for the long term, the 100 years of benefit of what it does for Alaska and how benefits their company.”
Walker added he recently had a phone conversation with Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods.
Walker also defended his position on cutting legislative pay if a budget is not finalized within 90 days.
“We have to live with the results of what doesn’t happen,” he said. “So when we don’t get a budget, we have to send all these [prospective layoff] notices, so it’s not like we’re idle bystanders. We are really impacted by what happens by the Legislature on the budget side so that’s really my biggest concern.”
During his Thursday speech to the Legislature, Walker also touted the mining industry for its 8,600-person workforce while citing prospective projects at Livengood, the Upper Kobuk and Haines, which “could add millions of dollars in new revenue and greater opportunities for Alaskans.”
He also omitted Pebble Mine, which last month submitted permitting applications with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Walker, however, is not convinced the Bristol Bay area project is the right for that region, which produces half the world’s sockeye salmon.
“Nothing has changed for me on Pebble,” he said. “I think they have a high burden. I don’t think they have met their burden,” he said. “I will risk renewable fish against non-renewable, which is mining."
“I’m very supportive of mining, don’t get me wrong, but that mine concerns me a great deal. I’ve listened to the people in the region, and I stand with them on this issue.”
Editor's note: Our original story indicated Governor Walker confirmed details of the ceremonial signing on King Cove Road. The information was provided by the U.S. Interior Department.
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