Count the Alaska Peninsula fishing community of King Cove down but not out in the latest courtroom battle over a proposed one-lane gravel road that would provide for ground transportation to Cold Bay’s all-weather airport in medical emergencies.
“We’re totally disheartened, (but) we won’t give up,” said Della Trumble, president of the King Cove Corp., an Alaska Native village corporation. King Cove, which lies some 600 nautical miles southwest of Anchorage, is the home of Peter Pan Seafoods largest processing facility. Deliveries to the plant include king crab, bairdi and opilio tanner crab, Polllock, cod, salmon, halibut and black cod harvested in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Peter Pan has operated facilities in King Cove for more than 100 years and is a major contributor to the local economy.
Trumble said the corporation is reviewing the recent decision by US District Court Judge John Sedwick that vacated a proposed land exchange that would have allowed for 11 miles of the gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. That stretch of road would connect two other existing roads already in the wildlife refuge.
Environmental entities who brought the case against the Interior Department to court meanwhile said they were thrilled that Sedwick had rejected the land exchange proposal. The judge found that it constituted an unlawful action in violation of the federal Administrative Procedures Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
When the weather is good, small aircraft can transport individuals in need of emergency medical care from King Cove to Cold Bay, from where they can be rushed to medical facilities in Anchorage. In inclement weather the only option may be a three-hour ride from King Cove to Cold Bay on a fishing vessel. Poor weather conditions usually result in the small gravel airstrip in King Cove being closed over 100 days a year.
Alaska’s congressional delegation, which supports the road plan, notes that there have been a number of emergency medevacs from King Cove, including 33 by the US Coast Guard, and said they intend to keep fighting to get the road through.