The announcement Thursday morning came from Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's office, and in a press release, stated that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the decision after direct talks with Murkowski. According to the senator's office, the Department of the Interior will review the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's opposition to building a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The road would connect King Cove to an airport in Cold Bay.
"There is no greater good we could do than to provide the residents of King Cove a safe land route to the airport in Cold Bay so they can be evacuated in cases of medical emergencies," Murkowski said in the release.
The Interior Department will review the environmental impact statement. Murkowski says the report did not consider the importance of protecting the health and safety of King Cove residents.
Murkowski's office says the Department of the Interior will hold public meetings in the King Cove community.
Congressman Don Young praised the decision Thursday.
"The Department of Interior's responsibility to the health and well-being of the people of King Cove must be taken into consideration. I implore the Secretary of the Interior to take a hard look at the facts, and listen to the community of King Cove's valid concerns," Young said in a statement.
Della Trumble with the King Cove Corporation says she’s been fighting for a road to Cold Bay for 35 years.
“The people in this community strongly believe in this and if we have to keep going through it to get the end result -- like I say, this community will do whatever it has to do,” Trumble said.
While Alaska’s congressional delegation has been united in pressuring Salazar to approve the road, Sen. Mark Begich credited King Cove residents with influencing Thursday’s decision.
"Really, the people who made the difference are the people of King Cove," Begich said. "They had a compelling story. Having them here not only in person, but with photos showing actually what it looks like there, and the experiences they went through many different times on transportation, really was the most compelling.”
Murkowski says she will accompany Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell to King Cove.
“I think it's going to be very important that she evaluate all of the factors, not just the biologists recommendations,” Murkowski said.
Jewell’s official visit will be used as part of her decision on a proposed land exchange that would allow for the road to be built.Contact Dan Carpenter