New FAA navigation beacon approved for Fire Island 

By Jill Burke of Alaska Dispatch:
As the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) listens to arguments about whether Chugach Electric Association should be allowed to incorporate wind energy into its power portfolio, another government body – the FAA – is taking steps to make sure development on Fire Island won’t interfere with navigation signals beamed to planes flying overhead.

On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced its plans to replace the island’s existing beacon with a new one. A recently constructed beacon at the Ted Stevens International Airport will provide navigation data for flights in the area once Fire Island’s old beacon is taken out of service.

According to a press release from Murkowski’s office, the announcement “allows the Fire Island Wind Project to proceed” during the transition period to the new tower.

“I’m glad the FAA sees what I see at Fire Island: a project being managed collectively to both help Southcentral Alaska’s energy needs while also addressing safety concerns for air travel in and out of Alaska’s largest city. I continue to support this project and have confidence that the FAA will develop any necessary changes to the navigational system in the most safe and comprehensive manner for Alaskan aviation,” U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in the press release.

Fire Island Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Cook Inlet Region, Inc., one the state’s 13 regional Alaska Native corporations, hopes to begin construction on a wind farm on Fire Island this year. The island is located close to Anchorage across from Turnagain Arm.

In 2008, the FAA determined that Fire Island Wind would not be able to construct 36 turbines, as originally planned, because of the turbines’ interference with the radio tower. The FAA concluded that 24 turbines, with some at lower heights than others, would be more realistic. Since then the project has been scaled down even further, adjusted to accommodate the financial constraints of having a lone power buyer — Chugach Electric Association.

The FAA agreed to allow for a replacement beacon. CIRI picked up the $5 million price tag for the upgraded, digital model now located at the Anchorage International Airport, and it did not incorporate this cost into its purchase agreement with Chugach Electric. Read more

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