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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that could lead to the construction of a road linking King Cove to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay.
The bipartisan bill authorizes a land exchange under which the State of Alaska and the King Cove Native Corporation would give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service more than 61,000 acres. In return the State of Alaska would get 206 acres in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to build the road. Forty five thousand acres of the 61,000 acres would become wilderness, and the state also would get about 1,600 acres of Coast Guard surplus land on an island near Kodiak.
“Many residents of King Cove have been stranded in emergency situations, unable to access the airport just across the bay due to inclement weather,” said Murkowski. “The proposed road through the refuge to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay would be narrow and unobtrusive. I believe that this exchange is more than fair.”
The Izembek and Alaska Peninsula Refuge Enhancement Act of 2008, S. 1680, contains multiple checks and balances to protect both the waterfowl populations in the Izembek refuge and subsistence users of these populations.
Similar legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, has passed the House Natural Resources Committee.
The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to enter into a land exchange and contains the following environmental safeguards:
· Requires that an environmental impact statement be conducted on the land exchange and the proposed road.
· Requires that the Secretary of the Interior finds the exchange to be in the public interest.
· Requires the State of Alaska to enter into agreement with the Secretary of the Interior regarding road usage.
· Provides for the establishment of an enforceable mitigation plan to minimize impacts of the road on the refuge.
· Encourages broad public participation in the process.