King Cove road legislation passes House

Legislation to allow for a land transfer, clearing the way for a road between King Cove and the all-weather airport at Cold Bay has passed the U.S. House, in the latest effort to secure a safe route for King Cove residents in medical emergencies. 

“This is truly an issue of life or death for residents of the isolated community of King Cove,” said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who introduced House Bill 218, the King Cove Road Land Exchange, in January. 

“For 30 years they have fought for the approval of an 11-mile, non-commercial use, gravel road to the community of Cold bay in order to access an all-weather airport during medical emergencies… 

“Without question, it will save lives,” he said. 

Young got kudos from the King Cove Corp., the village Native corporation at King Cove established under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. 

“We won’t stop fighting to get this essential single-lane gravel road until our people have access to the nearby all-weather Cold Bay Airport,” said Della Trumble, spokeswoman for King Cove Corp. 


“We are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. “We and our loved ones are hopeful we will soon have the peace of mind knowing we won’t have to fly or travel by boat in dangerous weather during a medical emergency.” 

Supporters of the road credited the Alaska congressional delegation, Gov. Bill Walker, the Alaska Legislature, the National Congress of American Indians and the Alaska Federation of Natives for their support. 

They said that since former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell denied the road on Dec. 23, 2013, there had been a total of 63 medevacs, 17 involving the U.S. Coast Guard and 46 non-Coast Guard medevacs. The area is plagued by hurricane-force winds, stormy weather and dense fog, causing grounding or delays of flights out of King Cove at least 30 percent of the time. 

Some environmental groups, including The Wilderness Society, contend that the legislation sets a dangerous precedent, because part of the road would go through protected wilderness in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. 

Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams called the vote “an egregious assault on America’s public lands, and said the bill poses “a major threat to wildlife refuges and wilderness areas nationwide.”