Road Agreement Signed (Unedited Video)

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Transcript: 

..the floor and make the case of the confirmation of Joe Balash to our Senate colleagues.

After we found out there was a secret hold by Senator Cantwell, one of the things that I said was, "When you look at this guy's background, when you look at what he's done for the state of Alaska, when you look at the fact that he was the DNR Commissioner, managing one of the largest portfolios of land, water, minerals, oil, gas in the world, there is literally, literally, no one more qualified for this job in the country than Joe Balash."

[coughing]

So, I wanna thank Joe. I wanna thank his family, 'cause we all know what a sacrifice it is, but, um, he's gonna do a great job for America. He's gonna be doin' a particularly great job for Alaska as he works to be the point man to implement whether it's the new ANWR legislation, whether it's issues like the King Cove Road.

So, Mr. Secretary, again, to you and the President, thank you for taking Joe up, but I know he's not gonna disappoint. Literally I think the most qualified guy in America for this job, so how 'bout another round of applause for Joe and...

[applause]

 We've been waiting 35 years and spent over $50 million. I guess we can get it done.

[audience murmuring]

 All right, uh, with that, uh, Della, if you would like to say a few words.

 OK. Oh...

[laughter]

 Um, on behalf of the community of King Cove, and the many people that have, have died and have suffered, this, we are so grateful both -- beyond grateful -- to all of those that did support us. Secretary Zinke and the administration, we thank you very much. This has been a, a long battle.

Um, our congressional delegation, Senator Murkowski, Congressman Young, Senator Sullivan, our governor, Walker, lieutenant governor...

[pause]

 I don't know if there's words that I can say how much we appreciate it in the sense as we're standing here that finally having this to move forward, uh, the people in the community of King Cove are so thankful and so proud and so grateful.

And from my, the bottom of my heart and my daughter, we thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thank you.

[applause]

 Welcome, Governor Walker.

 This is my, not my first time in this office, but by far, [clears throat] this is the most enjoyable time...

[laughter]

 ...in this, in this, uh, in this office. This is, I, you know, when I gave my State of the State, uh, last week, nothin', nothin' I said got a louder round of applause that this issue. They just erupted with, uh, statewide, with support for, for what's happening today.

When I went to King Cove, uh, it's important for me to sit down and, and listen. And it wasn't just the words that were said to me, it was the way it was said. It was the, the passion and the emotion, um, I have, uh, and, and, you know, certainly our, our Congressional delegation's been working on this for a long time as well.

But just to feel the, the, the passion in that room about this issue, uh, from, from a life-safey standpoint, you know, the, the pictures, the, the stories, the, the...It just, it just, it just, it is so exciting for me to be the governor at this moment, when this, when the right thing is done. It's been a long time.

People matter. People are important. People are critical, and, and I cannot thank you enough, Mr. Secretary, for, for, for this, for this day, uh, for the never-give-up attitude of King Cove. You never, ever gave up. Thank you.

Thank you for not, because in Alaska, this is, this, this is more than a 12-mile road. This is a, this is a, this is a, a sign of the changing opportunity for our state to, to, uh, see that people do matter, and, and you, and you did that. You's, you never gave up. You never gave up.

And so, I thank you for, for, for all, all that you've done, Mr. Secretary, this is, this is a moment for me, it really is. I, I [inaudible 4:59] discussion in this room in the past, and I'm glad we're at this, at this moment. I never thought we were going to be here. I really never did, but thank you. Thank you so much.

[applause]

This is...It feels like a family.

It is a family.

 It is. It is.

 And I want to speak a little bit about family, because for the many Alaskans in the room, um, we know that my father was very, very, uh, involved over the decades in trying to help advance a solution for King Cove.

When I was appointed to this position back in 2002, I remember the day. I remember the place. I had a conversation with my father. He said, "Lisa, you can get a lot of requests from a lot of people about their priorities."

But he said, "I just want you to remember one thing for me. Don't you ever forget the people of King Cove." You made an impression on somebody who was kind of standing on the sidelines, and it was about the people.

And over the years, as, as the discussion has gone back and forth about what the exchange should look like and, and taking care of the birds, so often it feels like we have forgotten the people. And I didn't forget what mom said. We always pay attention to what your mother says.

But I was with you. I was with Secretary Jewell when she was in the gymnasium there in King Cove, and we'd taken her out, because we truly felt that if she listened to people, if she looked in the eyes of those kids, she would understand it.

And she looked in the eyes of those kids, and she said, "Somebody has to protect the birds and the animals." And that kind of a, of an impression doesn't ever leave you. It doesn't ever leave.

She actually told me, Mr. Secretary, she actually told me that I needed to get over it. I wrote that down on a notepad. It's still on the front page of my notepad. Today, I can finally rip that page out of my notepad...

[applause]

[cheering]

...over it by doing it right, and...

[crosstalk]

 She was correct. You are over it.

[laughter]

 ...thank you. Thank you to you, thank you to the President, thank you to the good people of King Cove who do have a level of persistence, because again, it's the right thing for the right reasons, so wonderful day.

 And our junior senator, Semper Fi.

[applause]

Senator Sullivan: I like how the Secretary is saying, "Our senator," you know. He is an adopted son here, of Alaska.

[laughter]

 Well, listen. I, um, I'll just echo a few of the comments here. I think what the Governor mentioned is that how this issue, eh, it's become an Alaskan issue, and I think it's a great testament to our state.

That every member of the legislature, when I was a commissioner at DNR, we worked on one of the many proposals of, uh, the land s-, swap, but it was just how the whole state used this as something important to them, even though they might live 500 miles, a thousand miles away from King Cove.

And how that in many ways, this has been a hugely difficult issue, but for our state, it's been a uniting issue, and, um, it's great to finally have a moment of victory.

Um, I also wanna thank, uh, of course, the Congressional delegation, Congressman Young and Senator Murkowski have been working on this for decades, literally. I do wanna thank, as everybody has, the Secretary and the President. You know, Senator Murkowski and I had over an hour-long meeting with the President, uh, last spring. The Secretary was in there.

And we had maps and everything, going through all the Alaska issues. We talked a lot about this issue, and you could see he was very focused on it. As a matter of fact, he looked at Secretary Zinke and said, "Well, when can we get this done?" And then, "Well, we're working on it, sir."

And then he looked at the secretary and said, "Two weeks?"

[laughter]

 "We'll try, sir."

[laughter]

 Do you remember?

 I do.

 And then, uh, Julie and I were, uh, with Senator Murkowski and Vern at the, um, there was a, a, a White House, uh, holiday Christmas celebration, and when we went to chat up the President and his wife, the, the one issue he raised with us and to Julie, we talked about ANWR, but he said, "We've gotta get that road done, too. We've gotta get the road done," the president of the United States. That's powerful.

But I was finally, like everybody else here, said, "The most important people in this room, the people who have, who really deserve the credit and the attention today, are the wonderful Alaskans from King Cove," because they have worked it so hard...

[applause]

 And I have a little bit, I have some pride, too, 'cause in addition to this big accomplishment, we also have a Rhodes Scholar from King Cove. How about that? That's pretty awesome.

[applause]

 So, a great day for Alaska. Thank you.

 And one infamous chairman.

[laughter]

 There is only one Don Young.

[laughter]

 Thank God for that.

[laughter]

 Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, for these.

[applause]

 Everything's been said, but I'd like to, Della, thank you, 'cause you've been down there. All my King Cove friends, um. The only thing I'm worried about, Steve Silver won't have any reason for bring you down any more.

[laughter]
 Steve, [inaudible 11:13] just keep that in mind, as time goes by.

 [inaudible 11:16] .

 And by the way, thank you, Mr. Balash, Mr. Secretary, Lieutenant Governor. So everybody in this room, this is a great day. Uh, I've been working on this issue for 30 years, and August, 37 years.

We had our first hearing wh-, when we used to work together with Nicki Joe [inaudible 11:33] . A lot of us had the hearing and a lot of you came down that time, and talked about this room, and everybody knows the importance of it.

But again, Mr. Secretary, thank you. Uh, we had a secretary that didn't believe that people were important and that geese were more important. In fact, I wanted to catch a goose today and bring it in here.

[coughing]

[laughter]

 And I had a hard time, there was so many of 'em. None of them would stand still.

[laughter]

 But anyway, this is a great day, and I just want to appreciate everybody, the importance of the Coast Guard, um, the boroughs mayors, Mr. [inaudible 12:03] and the rest of you, keep in mind, we're all in this together, we're all Alaskans.

We're going to remain the same people. You will have connection to a big airport that every other community in the lower 48 has today, and after 30-some odd years, uh, we will finally have that transportation.

Again, Mr. Secretary, and Senators, thank you very much, Governor. To me, it's a joint effort, and it's worked out well, and God bless Alaska, God bless King Cove, and all its people. Thank you very much.

[applause]

 Admiral Michel, the Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard.

 All right, well, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. First of all, Admiral Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, wishes he would be with you here today. He's worked with each of you on this issue, and it's a issue of great importance to the United States Coast Guard.

So, in the world of search and rescue, it's all about having options, and particularly in such a remote and, uh, weather-challenged place as Alaska, to be able to get citizens out when they are either injured or sick, and get them the medical care.

And this road, sir, I'd like to echo what you said, is, is beyond just a 12-mile road. This is a life line for this community, and in certain weather conditions, it may be the only way that we can actually get people out, so I just wanna say thanks to each and every one of you who has worked on this issue for so many years.

It's a great day for Alaska. It's a great day for the United States Coast Guard, and congratulations and thanks.

[applause]

 [inaudible 12:34] .

 Yes, sir.

 So, let's sign this.

[background conversation]

 With a few remarks, is it on behalf of the President, who made this a priority, because the President wants to make sure the people's voice is heard. Over and over again, whether it's in Montana, or Alaska, or Florida, a significant issue was that the local voice wasn't heard, that our government works for the people, and not the other way around.

So, in the case of King Cove, a little village, that you had to be from Alaska to kinda know where it is, except our president now knows, uh, where it is. But it's more than just a road. It is an idea and a value that people really do matter.

Uh, and as the Secretary, I represent Native Alaskans, and I'm your champion, as well as I represent our wildlife and our treasures. In this case, there is no harm by a 12-mile road. And I spent a lot of time in Alaska with the Coast Guard, and, as, as a Navy Seal, in the, in the Aleutian Chain, tough weather.

But also, we have to look at, at security and safety, and it makes a difference whether you have a fixed wing or a rotary wing, and it makes a difference for a child or a mother that needs to get to a hospital, uh, and it's the right thing to do.

So as the Secretary of Interior, the 52nd Secretary of the Interior, and evidently an adopted member of...

Audience: Yeah.

[applause]

 It is my, it's my pleasure to sign this. Uh, a small note, we are in the government shut down, so while, while this is official, uh, I, we cannot implement it until the Senate votes in a positive direction.

[laughter]
 Workin' on it.

 Never a problem...

[laughter]

 Never a problem with these two.

[laughter]

 So, uh, let me, uh, "Whereas King Cove, uh, KCC owns the surface, uh, estate of lands physically located within the external boundaries of the National Wildlife Refuge, whereas the United States owns the surface and subsurface estate to lands outlined in green on the attached map."

"Whereas under the terms and procedures set forth in the agreement, the United States will convey to the King Cove Corporation, the surface and subsurface estate, up to 500 acres, from within the outlined area."

"Whereas King Cove, Alaska is an isolated, uh, your native village, recognized as a village under the N-, uh, ANCSA and located at the end of the Alaska Peninsula, whereas there are two tribes recognized by the United States in King Cove, whereas there's approximately a 12-mile gap between the road leading out of King Cove and the road leading to Cold Bay airport."

"And whereas the residents of King Cove cannot regularly reach the Cold Bay airport because inclement weather prevents small aircraft from flying between King Cove and Cold Bay, and this is a safety issue."

 That's right.

 And during the government shut down, I am authorized to address safety, and human life. Therefore, I take great pleasure in signing this.

[applause]

[off-mic comment]

[coughing]

 I've got goosebumps.

 Sorry.

[laughter]

[background conversation]

 [inaudible 18:10] comment, um. I think it's gonna take me a little bit of time to, for this to actually sink in, um. I've been spending over of my life battling it, and the community of King Cove, battling for this. I...There's no words that I can express, uh, how thankful we are, um, so thankful to actually...

I, I still can't believe I'm here doing this, and, and for everyone...

[coughing]

 ...everybody and the organizations that have stood behind this all these years and helped us, we are beyond thankful. from the bottom of our hearts, God bless you all. Thank you.

 Yay.

[applause]

[background conversation]

 And now we're heading to, uh, Senator Murkowski's office, um, shortly, for some press calls and stuff, uh. This will be your own [inaudible 19:27] .

[background conversations]

1/23/2018

Unedited video of Secretary Ryan Zinke signing an agreement with the Alaska Native King Cove Native Corp. to build a life-saving road between the Native village and the nearby all-weather airport in Cold Bay.