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Izembek Timeline Final.pdf

Izembek Timeline Final.pdf

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Timeline of Eventsin Izembek
Timeline of Eventsin Izembek

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Published by: The Wilderness Society on Mar 05, 2013
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03/05/2013

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History of the “Road through the Refuge”

The efforts to run a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge have gone on for nearly 20 years. The following timeline highlights the milestones of the wildlife refuge and the efforts to put an unnecessary road through it.

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1980: After close to a decade of public discourse leading up to the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is established with much of it designated as wilderness. The area was originally established as the Izembek National Wildlife Range in 1960. 1982–83: A report by the state of Alaska and others, including DOI, finds that a road through Izembek would cause significant long-term, ongoing and irreparable damage to important fish, wildlife, habitat and wilderness values of the refuge. 1986: Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent Izembek State Game Refuge becomes the first wetland area in the United States to be recognized as a Wetland of International Importance. 1994: The City of King Cove passes a resolution1 that supports a road through Izembek for “positive socioeconomic impacts.” 1995:The Alaska State Transportation Plan identifies the King Cove/Cold Bay road as a high priority for improving the economic infrastructure of the Lower Alaska Peninsula area. However, the Alaska Department of Transportation rates the proposed road less safe than a marine link or improved air travel.2 1996: A U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report again finds that if a road were built, there would be unacceptable environmental impacts. 1997: King Cove Corporation offers to exchange corporation lands at the mouth of Kinzarof Lagoon for a road right-of-way across the Izembek refuge and wilderness. The Fish & Wildlife service declines the offer and states, “an exchange would not be in the public interest because of the high-value wildlife lands in the road corridor.”3

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City of King Cove, Resolution 94-26. 1994 ADOTPF, Alaska intermodal Transportation Plan, Alaska Peninsula Project King Cove – Cold Bay Access, Appendix C, p. 18. 3 1996 USFWS Izembek Briefing Report

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1997: The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, determines that, “Cold Bay and King Cove statistics indicate no particular elevation in accident statistics overall or related to weather ... Statistically, it is not clear that King Cove residents are in greater danger than other Alaskans who rely on air transportation.”4 1998: The Association of Village Council Presidents - representing 56 Native villages in Western Alaska - and the Waterfowl Conservation Committee pass a resolution opposing a bill to build a road from King Cove to Cold Bay, citing concerns regarding critical habitat for black brant and other subsistence waterfowl. 5 1998: Instead of allowing a road, Congress appropriates $37.5 million dollars to address King Cove’s health and safety concerns. The funds are allocated for: o $20 million for the construction of a one-lane, unpaved road to a hovercraft terminal, a dock and marine facilities and equipment o $15 million for improvements to the King Cove airstrip necessary to accommodate non-stop flights between Anchorage and King Cove o $2.5 million to the Indian Health Service for improvements to the health clinic in King Cove. 2001-04: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts an Environmental Impact Statement analysis and concludes that a road would not qualify as an environmentally preferable option. 2004-07: The Aleutians East Borough spends the $37.5 million in federal funds in the following ways: o $9 million to purchase the Suna X - a top-of-the-line hovercraft that seats 49 passengers as well as vehicles. An entire ambulance and crew is able to drive aboard. o $2.5 million for a state-of-the-art telemedicine facility o More than $25 million to build a portion of the 17-mile road to a proposed hovercraft terminal in the northeastern corner of Cold Bay. Appropriated funds for airport improvements are instead used for road building. Construction of this road begins in March, 2004, and building costs reach close to $2 million per mile. The road is not finished, but all of the funds are depleted, and ahovercraft terminal is built in Lenard Harbor, the southeast corner of Cold Bay, where the hovercraft operates between 2007 -2010. 2007: Izembek road bills are introduced in Congress: Senators Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stephens introduce legislation (S. 1680) that would authorize a land exchange and road corridor through the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and its designated wilderness. Congressman Don Young introduces a companion bill (H.R. 2801) in the House of Representatives. o 2007–10: The hovercraft is, “a life-saving machine. . . and it is doing what it is supposed to do” - Stanley Mack, Aleutians East Borough Mayor, 20086 o The hovercraft operates out Lenard Harbor7 (southeastern corner of Cold Bay) and successfully performs more than 30 medical evacuations in most all weather conditions 2012: The US Fish and Wildlife Service releases a Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the proposed road and land exchange. It indicates that the road will cost about $22 million in additional funds to build. However, an economic analysis commissioned by The Wilderness Society suggests that the road construction and maintenance costs would likely be closer to $30 – $35.5 million. The economic analysis determines that the

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Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, King Cove – Cold Bay Access Assessment of Transportation Need, 1997 The Association of Village Council Presidents Resolution 98-03-02 6 Aleutians East Borough Minutes, Administrator’s Report, 13 March 2008. 7 Fast Ferry Vessels International, BHT-130 hovercraft enter service in UK and US, September 2007

road would likely result in economic losses that are more than 7 - 13 times the economic benefits.8

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2012: There are 70,111 comments generated to the USFWS that oppose the road9, including the following from Dr. Peter Mjos, past Eastern Aleutian Medical Director for US Public Health Service: “These hurricane-force storms are not infrequent, of course. No vehicle, boat or plane or medevac can even consider travel in such horrific conditions. Combined with darkness, avalanche conditions, and ice-glazed roads, an attempt to travel the proposed road would be foolish beyond any reason, regardless the emergency or business. Any attempt to maintain the road for travel in such conditions would clearly jeopardize life.”10 2013: The U.S. Department of the Interior rejects a land swap and road proposal once again determining that a road in the Izembek wilderness is not in the public interest, and would cause irreparable harm to habitat and the species that the wildlife refuge was established to protect.

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http://wilderness.org/sites/default/files/1205%20CSE%20TWS%20DEIS%20Comments%20Final.pdf 2013 USFWS Final Environmental Impact Statement, Appendix G, p. 2 10 Peter O. Mjos, M.D., to Ms. Stephanie Brady, USFWS, 15 May 2012
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