BIA takes role on controversial road for Alaska Native village

The Bureau of Indian Affairs will be taking on a new role for a controversial Alaska Native village road.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended against building a road for the village of King Cove. The agency said the project would harm the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

But after talks with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Obama administration agreed to take a second look at the project. The deal paved the way for the committee to approve the nomination of Sally Jewell as the next Secretary of the Interior Department.

“Sally Jewell will have the privilege of going to King Cove and I will be right there with her. We'll have to find a time when the weather is best suited for travel – we may have to fly into Cold Bay and walk to King Cove," Murkowski said yesterday.

As part of the agreement, Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA, is also going to King Cove. He will lead a consultation effort that includes the village, affected tribes and affected Alaska Native corporations, outgoing Secretary Salazar said.

“Pursuant to the unique trust relationship that Interior holds with Alaska Natives, and in response to concerns raised that a non-commercial road is necessary for medical evacuations from King Cove, I believe that additional steps and dialogue are appropriate before a final decision is made,” Salazar, who will step down once Jewell is confirmed, said in a press release.

In a memo to Washburn, Salazar directed the BIA to consult the Indian Health Service about the project. The road would give King Cove residents a safer and quicker route to health facilities -- there have been at least 11 cases in which people died while seeking medical attention.

Get the Story:
Senate Panel Approves Obama’s Choice for Interior Dept. (The New York Times 3/22)
Senate panel endorses Jewell for Interior chief (AP 3/21)
Jewell nomination clears first Senate hurdle (The Washington Post 3/21)

Committee Notice:
BUSINESS MEETING: To consider the nomination of Sally Jewell to be the Secretary of the Interior (March 21, 2013)

Confirmation Hearing:
FULL COMMITTEE HEARING: To consider the nomination of Sally Jewell to be the Secretary of the Interior (March 7, 2013)

Related Stories:
Senate committee approves Sally Jewell as Interior Secretary (3/21)
Senate committee to take up Sally Jewell nomination at DOI (3/19)
Sally Jewell vows to make Indian Country a top priority at DOI (3/8)
Sally Jewell earns praise on eve of Senate confirmation hearing (3/6)
Alaska Native village meets Secretary Salazar to discuss road (02/28)
Senate committee to hold hearing on Interior Secretary pick (2/26)
Native Sun News: Obama taps Sally Jewell for Interior position (2/14)
Opinion: Sally Jewell shares passions of Interior Department (02/11)
Tribes hail nomination of Sally Jewell for Interior Department (02/07)

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