Oppose H.R 218: King Cove Road Land Exchange Act

July 20, 2017

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.  20515

Dear Representative,

You will soon consider H.R. 218, the King Cove Land Exchange Act, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).  On behalf of the more than one million members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), I urge you to oppose this legislation. 

Rep. Young is not the first to introduce wasteful legislation that would use federal dollars to connect the Alaskan communities of King Cove and Cold Bay:  Former Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), as well as current Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), have attempted to promote, persuade, and pressure for this “Road to Nowhere,” connecting the two towns through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.  In March 2014, Sen. Murkowski was named “Porker of the Month” by Citizens Against Government Waste for her efforts in this regard. 

Former Sens. Murkowski and Stevens colluded to use taxpayer money to build a gravel road in order to expedite the transportation of seafood.  In 1998, King Cove residents received $37.5 million in federal funds for a telemedicine center, along with $9 million for a hovercraft to transport residents to Cold Bay.  However, poor weather and high maintenance costs made the hovercraft inoperable.  The hovercraft was eventually given to another town and used to transport workers to a seafood plant.

Sen. Murkowski revamped the campaign for the road project in 2013; she threatened to block the nomination of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell unless the road project was approved.  While Secretary Jewell ultimately rejected the project proposal, Sen. Murlowski put pressure on the Obama Administration to overturn the decision and introduced amendments for funding to must-pass bills.  On March 14, 2014, a bipartisan group of former Interior Department officials from the Bush, Clinton, Ford, and Nixon administrations sent a letter to Secretary Jewell supporting her decision in rejecting the proposed road.  To quote the letter, “The Izembek road was a terrible idea in 1998, it was a terrible idea when you heroically rejected it last December, and it still remains a terrible idea today.”

Rep. Young and others in the Alaskan delegation have used medical necessity to rationalize the need for the road.  However, it is clear that the motivation for the road is for private commercial interests, not medical emergencies.  A February 24, 2013 Washington Post article noted that area residents and officials viewed the road as a way to bolster the fishing industry; when the first resolution was passed calling for construction by King Cove in 1994, it called for the road to “link together two communities having one of the State’s premier fishing ports/harbors in King Cove with one of the State’s premier airports at Cold Bay.”  The “medical necessity” justification did not appear until the project seemed unlikely to receive federal funds.  

Further, the road would be extremely dangerous if built, according to Peter Mjos, former Eastern Aleutian Medical Director for the Public Health Service:  “[C]ombined with darkness, avalanche conditions, and ice-glazed roads, an attempt to travel the proposed road would be foolish beyond reason, regardless [of] the emergency or business.”

Alaska needs a “Road to Nowhere” like it needs another “Bridge to Nowhere.”  I urge you to oppose this legislation, which is fiscally unjustifiable and a waste of federal tax dollars.  All votes on H.R. 218 will be among those considered for CCAGW’s 2017 Congressional Ratings.

Sincerely,

Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

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