U.S. District Court of Alaska Judge Sharon Gleason nullified a January 2018 deal that traded roughly 500 acres of federally protected wilderness to the community of King Cove, Alaska. In return, the interior Dept would receive one acre of land from King Cove. The judge’s ruling will be a death sentence to Alaskans with medical emergencies living in King Cove.
King Cove is an isolated town in Alaska that has no way to transport citizens to Anchorage 600 miles away in bad weather. If they could get the sick or injured to Cold Bay, they have the ability to transport there.
That was why the trade was made so that King Cove could build a road to Cold Bay. 18 people have died because they could not get the medical attention they need. More will die as a result of this ruling.
Alaskan officials have been arguing for decades that a land route between King Cove and Cold Bay, where the area’s only all-weather airport is located, is a medical necessity. Air taxis between Cold Bay and King Cove’s gravel airstrip and fishing boats can usually transport residents, but in medical emergencies, those options are only reliable about two-thirds of the year.
The rest of the time, the area’s weather is too severe for small planes and boats to safely navigate. At least 18 people have died in King Cove waiting for medevac by the Coast Guard or in crashes trying to travel to Cold Bay because no reliable land route connects the two communities.
“There have been nearly 100 medevacs in King Cove — many carried out by the Coast Guard — since 2014 alone. There is no question that the people who live there need a single-lane, gravel, non-commercial road to protect their health and safety,” Murkowski said. “I will never stop until this road is a reality and the nearly 1,000 residents of this isolated community have a lifeline for emergency medical care.”