Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Impassioned Voices Speak Out on King Cove Road

Commercial fisheries veterans were among those whose testimony was heard this past week in Anchorage at a federal public hearing regarding building a road between the fishing community of King Cove and Cold Bay’s all-weather airport.

In testimony delivered on behalf of Stanley Mack, mayor of the Aleutians East Borough, the US Fish and Wildlife Service heard an impassioned plea to allow for a land exchange that would allow for construction of a single land road – to be used for medical emergencies – between the two communities.

Mack said in his testimony that the government should look at the record, which shows that the Aleut people take what they need for subsistence and leave the rest of the wildlife alone. “If you’re a swan or any other animal who wants a life in the wild, you’re pretty happy with the Aleut way,” said Mack, a Sand Point resident who was born and raised in King Cove.

Sam Cotten, a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, said, “the reluctance of the United States government to allow this road is a good example of a bad decision to presume a one-size-fits-all land designation should trump the logic and merits of this particular project.

Peter Pan Seafoods is the major employer at King Cove, a thriving community of about 900 residents, operating its plant there 50 weeks a year. The community recently had a huge celebration marking the 100th anniversary of Peter Pan in their community, located on the wind-swept southern edge of the Alaska Peninsula.

The weather there is often stormy and/or extremely windy, making it impossible for small aircraft – the normal transportation between King Cove and Cold Bay, to fly.

Then the only option is travel by fishing vessel, a journey that can take three hours to deliver a patient to a medevac flight at Cold Bay. Sometimes the weather gets so bad that even travel by water is unsafe.

King Cove Mayor Henry Mack, also a fisheries veteran, said a road would assure residents and others, including a number of employees of Peter Pan Seafoods, with access to doctors in emergencies, and that lives could be saved.

Several national environmental groups oppose the land exchange that would make the road possible because the road would wind through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

A decision on the road might come as early as December from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

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