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AK Beat: Obama administration official stands firm against King Cove road

Alaska Dispatch News

Interior Secretary says no way to King Cove road: The Obama administration on Wednesday doubled down on its decision to not allow a gravel road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Alaska. In letters to Gov. Sean Parnell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and the village of King Cove, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the agency won’t reconsider the decision made in December to deny the road. The village has long sought a single-lane, dozen-mile road to help improve emergency medical care for its residents. Jewell said she is concerned about the community’s public safety issues and wants to work with the village, population 934, to improve transportation from King Cove to the community of Cold Bay, where a large all-weather airport awaits. Bad weather and low visibility at the King Cove airstrip often prevent medical flights from landing. Jewell says she has tasked her special assistant in Alaska, Pat Pourchot, to work with other agencies and stakeholders on improving transportation between the communities without a road. One option is improving a dock at Cold Bay to allow passengers and freight to be offloaded near the water level. Currently, a 20-foot ladder separates boat decks from land, posing a challenge for many medical evacuations. King Cove has filed a lawsuit challenging Jewell’s decision in federal district court in Alaska, with the state intervening as plaintiff. In a statement issued Wednesday, King Cove leaders said they plan to continue the fight. “It’s quite clear to us that Secretary Jewell does not have a thorough understanding of this issue,” said King Cove Corp. and Agdaagux Tribe spokesperson Della​ Trumble. “Otherwise, she would know from the information we provided several months ago that neither of those options would be reliable or feasible. These alternatives, among others, have already been analyzed and rejected.”

Cody Dial search focused on remote canyons: After weeks of delays, Roman Dial received permission to conduct search efforts for his son Cody -- missing in Costa Rica for more than a month -- on his own, reports Outside Online, the online presence of the outdoors magazine of the same name. The elder Dial is searching for Cody -- also known as “R2” -- in remote canyons, because of the possibility that Cody may’ve become trapped in one in an effort to follow a stream or river out of a wild area, the report said. Search efforts have been complicated by the remains of campsites left by illegal gold miners, who operate in some of the same remote areas, which searchers aren’t able to tell apart from traces that may’ve been left by Cody, Outside reports.

Palin's Alaska popularity dips -- even compared to Hillary Clinton: Hillary Clinton would beat Sarah Palin in a presidential election -- among Alaska voters. At least that’s what a poll released by Public Policy Polling on Tuesday and reported on by Politico found.  The report found Palin would trail numerous potential Republican presidential nominees, including some unsurprising ones, such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, and a few less obvious choices, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The polling group PPP, though, has a mixed history in Alaska. It’s been criticized for its methods and its results, including mistakenly forecasting a seven-point Joe Miller win in the 2010 U.S. Senate race (a race he narrowly lost to Lisa Murkowski).

Mariachi music and Alaska's changing demographics: Mariana Herrera-Arteaga’s father moved her family from Mexico to Anchorage to escape a recession there in the early 1990s, The Atlantic writes, and in doing so paved the way for the state’s “hottest Mariachi band.” Herrera-Artega -- the band’s violinist -- started Mariachi Agave Azul a few years ago with church friends, The Atlantic notes, in a piece that takes the band as a bellwether for Alaska’s place as “one of the most diverse states in America,” and a growth trend in U.S. Hispanic populations far from the Mexico border: “The state’s newly settled minority groups are also getting married, having children, and settling in for the long term. Many of those marriages are interracial or interethnic, and often, family members move to Alaska to be near children or siblings. Several Anchorage neighborhoods are outpacing the rest of the United States in terms of minority growth and integration.”

Yukon salmon meet international treaty goals: For only the third time in the past eight years, the number of Yukon River king salmon reaching Canada has met the United States’ obligations under a fisheries treaty, reports the CBC, and this comes despite analysts fears earlier in the season -- somewhat abated -- that this year's run might prove to be among the worst ever. Fishing for Yukon kings was completely banned on the river, a first, which contributed to the returns. Still, worries abound. “[Whitehorse hatchery manager Lawrence] Vano is concerned because so many of the fish returning are from the hatchery. Only a fraction are wild fish and males are outnumbering females by nearly three to one,” the CBC reports. “Despite the high proportion of male and hatchery-raised fish, Vano is confident this years fishing ban will pay off five years down the road when the salmon from this year's spawners return to repeat the cycle.”