Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Fishermen or Fowl?


August 1, 2017

At press time the Alaska Department of Transportation, armed with a federal permit to proceed, had completed a survey to determine the route of least environmental impact for an emergency medical ground route between King Cove and the Cold Bay airport.

Residents of King Cove, home of year-round Peter Pan Seafoods processing plant, have been lobbying for 35 years for a road connection to the all weather airport at Cold Bay, to transport people facing medical emergencies to hospitals in Anchorage.

Environmental entities, including The Wilderness Society, oppose the road claiming that it would have an adverse impact on wildfowl habitat in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announced the initial steps to build the road on June 26, after learning that the Interior Department had issued the permit to survey. Walker said that for far too long King Cove residents facing medical emergencies have to brave harsh weather conditions just to get health care. At times they must travel by boat or helicopter in inclement weather just to access the Cold Bay airport to be medevaced out, Walker said. At the King Cove Corp., the Alaska Native village corporation in this Aleutian fishing community, finance manager Della Trumble said that while it’s still not a done deal, it is a step in the right direction and they remain hopeful.

The Wilderness Society reported $29.4 million in revenues in 2016 and $62 million in total assets. While the governing council is made up mostly of academics and investment bankers in New York and Washington DC, the organization’s secretary, Marcia Kunstel operates a dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

With a population of roughly 10,000, the town boasts two hospitals, one clinic, eight doctors in private practice and one urgent care facility. The town is served by Wyoming Highway 22, as well as US Route 191, which leads to an all weather airport 9 miles (16 minutes) north of downtown.

King Cove, Alaska, has a population of 1,000 and has one medical clinic. The all weather airport is currently a 2-hour ferry ride from town.

The Wilderness Society, insists that the road is really for commercial and socioeconomic opportunity, and has vowed to fight what spokeswoman Nicole Whittington-Evans called “the Trump administration’s assault on America’s public lands.”

While the current President makes a convenient scapegoat, the road is an effort to save human lives. It seems the Wilderness Society and its donors value the convenience of a few waterfowl over the lives of the residents of King Cove.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email:


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