Alaska senators meet with president, appeal for lands access

  • By Dan Joling
  • Thursday, March 9, 2017 10:51pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE — President Donald Trump has never been to Alaska, so the state’s two U.S. senators brought Alaska to him.

In a one-hour “Alaska-centric” meeting, Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan sought to convey that Alaska has resources that can benefit the rest of the nation but that access was limited by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Murkowski came loaded with maps for the meeting Wednesday with Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“Having maps in front of you, rather than, ‘OK, here’s our agenda and talking points,’ allowed for a very wide-ranging conversation and very important issues,” she said.

When the conversation turned to Arctic waters, she pulled out a map showing the chokepoint to the region, the Bering Strait, and hundreds of miles of coastline that lack a deep-water port or connections to the highway system.

“It was instructive to be able to point to our geography and say, look, you’ve got 57 miles in the Bering Strait between the mainland of Alaska and Russia,” she said. “You’ve got levels of commerce that we’re seeing that we haven’t seen before.”

That led to discussion of why the United States has just one heavy icebreaker and what the federal government will do about it, Murkowski said.

“It was everything from our resource assets to our national security assets and what our military contributes, to again, understanding our limited infrastructure and how that leads to high costs in every other area,” Murkowski said.

More than 60 percent of Alaska is owned by the federal government. Murkowski used another map to illustrate how Obama restricted access, she said. The Obama administration left the Chukchi and Beaufort seas out of the next five-year federal offshore leasing sale schedule. The former president urged Congress to keep drill rigs off the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Environmental groups cheered those decisions but Alaska elected officials claimed the former president had crippled the state.

“We have a national asset with our trans-Alaska pipeline, and that national asset is sitting less than half full,” Murkowski told Trump. “We want to help fill it up in Alaska and we want to contribute not only to the state’s economy but also to the national economy and we’re going to need your help in doing so.”

Murkowski made an appeal for an access project that both she and her father, former U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, have pushed. Obama’s Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, rejected a land trade that would have led to construction of a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula. The refuge is internationally recognized for rich migratory bird habitat.

The road would allow residents of the village of King Cove, where flights are notoriously unpredictable because of strong winds and mountains, to have land access to an all-weather airport at nearby Cold Bay.

“I pointed to the fact that we’ve been trying now for a couple of decades to get a 10-mile, one-lane, commercial-use road to help the people of King Cove have, basically, an emergency access,” Murkowski said. “I told him, we’ve had an administration that decided it was more important to take care of the birds that it was to ensure the safety of the people.”

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read