Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to join first lady in Bethel on Wednesday

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will join first lady Jill Biden in Bethel on Wednesday.

During the trip, Haaland, Biden and Alaska’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola will promote federal broadband investments in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Millions have poured into the region from the 2021 bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to expand broadband connectivity.

The trip is Haaland’s second official visit to Alaska as interior secretary. In April 2022, Haaland visited King Cove with Alaska’s Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Gov. Mike Dunleavy. There, residents implored Haaland to approve a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge so they could better access emergency medical flights.

In March, a day after the Interior Department green-lit a massive ConocoPhillips oil project on the North Slope, Haaland withdrew a Trump-era land exchange between the department and King Cove Corp. that would have facilitated a road. Though Haaland signaled future support for a road, advocates saw the move as a setback in an already decades-long political battle.

Haaland and Biden are scheduled to arrive in Bethel on Wednesday evening. After they land, Haaland, Biden and Peltola — originally from Bethel — will deliver remarks about broadband expansions in the region and state as part of the administration’s “Investing in America” tour.

“I want this to be an opportunity to demonstrate some of the challenges faced by rural communities in our state — challenges that aren’t well understood in the Lower 48,” Peltola said in a Friday statement.

[GCI agrees to pay $40 million in settlement with federal government]

Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at rrogerson@adn.com.