The road to safety: King Cove Alaska continues to fight

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by Whitney LB Miller

ANCHORAGE - The battle continues between a small Alaskan village and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

For years - the community of King Cove has been vying for a connector road that could help medical patients reach an all-weather airport at nearby Cold Bay.

Interior secretary Sally Jewell recently rejected their 56,000 acre land swap agreement for a one lane gravel road - now leaders of the fishing community are fighting more than ever to finally connect their road to the other side.

About 600 miles south of Anchorage lies the city of King Cove. A mostly Aleut community that is only accessible by plane or boat.

Leff Kenezuroff, an elder in the community moved to king cove in 1985; living 14 miles outside of the town for most of his life he hunted and trapped to make a living.

"They talk about the wildlife in the Izembec area i've been back in there technically half of my life," said Kenezuroff.

In 1980 the federal government designated a large portion of land between King Cove and Cold Bay as wilderness.

Kenezuroff says bad weather has always made it extremely difficult to get out of remote city.

"I've watched the hardships and what people have gone through,"said Della Trumble, a spokesperson for the King Cove Corporation.  "People have died and planes have crashed."

According to the Aleutians East Borough a total of 19 people have died since 1980 as a result of harsh weather conditions during emergency evacuations. With the support of the state in 1998 the city tried to get a road through legislation.

Due to environmental concerns congress decided to compromise and appropriate 37 million dollars for water access to Cold Bay. This included the use of a hoover craft that the borough later decided was to expensive to maintain.

"It still didn't solve our problem of getting in and out of king cove," said Trumble.

When emergency planes can't fly into the city, residents are forced to travel through choppy seas via boat.

Once they reach the dock in cold bay the only way on - is up a forty foot steel ladder.

In 2006 - still feeling they had no safe way out - The city of King Cove came back to the table with a larger land trade proposal.

In exchange for the 206 acre easement the state offered an unprecedented 56,000 acres of land.

"Its unbelievable no one in this United States has come to the table with an offer like this or trade in order to have safe access," said Trumble. "Most people in the lower 48 and a good part of Alaska have that"

The road to nowhere, as some of the residents call it, ends at the abandoned hoover craft landing site some 11 miles away from where officials say the connector road would join up to existing road that could lead residents to Cold Bay.

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