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Governor Murkowski Meets with Dept. of Interior,
Seeks Concrete Responses to Alaska Issues


March 31, 2004

Washington, DC - Governor Frank Murkowski met Tuesday afternoon with Department of Interior Deputy Secretary Steve Griles to seek DOI action on four high priority issues, including the Trans Alaska Pipeline corridor, the King Cove road, cruise ships in Glacier Bay, and RS 2477 rights-of-way.

"We believe the requests and recommendations we made today [Tuesday] to Mr. Griles are reasonable and consistent with the public land and environmental philosophy of the Bush/Cheney administration," Murkowski said. "Each of these is important to the rights of Alaska as a sovereign state. In each case, we have requested a result that will enhance public land administration, socio-economic development, public safety, or some other important public policy objective without causing environmental or other harm. I look forward to the Department of Interior's favorable consideration of each of these issues."

Regarding the TAPS corridor, the Governor has requested that DOI convey to the State of Alaska all remaining federal lands within the corridor. More than 5 million acres of land were originally set aside in 1971, but since the route of the pipeline was long ago decided, the land no longer needs to be reserved. Under the Statehood Compact, Alaska was allowed to select 105 million acres to support its economy and state government. Murkowski also pointed out that having the corridor lands in state ownership would help facilitate permitting for a natural gas pipeline.

On the King Cove road, the Governor made it clear that his administration is committed to building an all-season road from King Cove to Cold Bay so that the 800 plus residents of King Cove will have access to the airport at Cold Bay. About 17 miles of the proposed road will pass through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and will therefore require a land exchange between the state and DOI.

"I have requested that the secretary direct the US Fish & Wildlife Service to enter into immediate negotiations with the state so we can agree on an equal value land exchange that we can jointly propose to Congress for its approval," Murkowski said.

"This project has waited too long and lack of adequate air service has cost too many lives. The alternative of a hovercraft link is simply too expensive and unreliable. For reasons of reliability, public safety, and cost, we strongly favor the all-road option."

Murkowski has also requested that every effort be made by the National Park Service to complete work on new regulations that will allow more cruise ship entries into Glacier Bay.

"I have long favored increased entries," Murkowski said. "This can be done without significant environmental impacts, it would be good for the economy of Southeast Alaska, and it would allow more Americans to see the wonders of their national park."

On RS 2477 rights-of-way, Murkowski has requested the secretary to direct her staff to begin immediate negotiations with state officials to consummate a memorandum of understanding for processing rights-of-way claimed by the state under that federal statute. He also suggested the alternative of issuing recordable disclaimers upon approval of applications submitted by the state for specific rights-of-way.

"The state has submitted a detailed memorandum to facilitate the department's processing of our RS 2477 applications," Murkowski said. "The memorandum is solidly based on Alaska law and traditional patterns of use."

In response to the department's request, Murkowski submitted two trails for immediate consideration by DOI. Those are from Coldfoot to Chandalar Lake and from Caro to Coldfoot. Neither trail involves paved or gravel surfaces, but are representative of the kind of historical usage found in Alaska for RS 2477 rights-of-way.

"These trails were originally established by traditional Alaska uses, such as dog sled, snow machine, mining equipment, and foot traffic, and have been used since then for the same purposes," Murkowski said. "It is important to note that the trails access over a million acres of state lands. We believe these trails exemplify patterns of use that are clearly contemplated by RS 2477 and state law."

Murkowski also noted the state has filed "six month" notices with the federal government under the Quiet Title Act, but said the state would prefer to work with DOI to recognize the routes by administrative action.



Source of News:

Office of the Governor
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