A word from the president: Changing the economic landscape

Why Fire Island Wind means so much to CIRI
By: Margie Brown, CIRI president and chief executive officerIn this issue you will read that CIRI’s Fire Island Wind project is connected to Southcentral Alaska’s electric grid and producing power.

Now I will use the completion of this project to illuminate (no pun intended) what Fire Island Wind means to CIRI and why it is important to Alaskans in general.

Fire Island Wind is more than a financial commitment for CIRI. It is a statement about our Company’s ability and determination to overcome adversity and successfully complete projects. It was a very complex project to sell, permit, finance and build. In fact, it was three distinct projects. Each of these sub-projects had to be carried out, sometimes sequentially, sometimes in tandem, to complete the wind farm.

First, we had to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to overcome aircraft control and navigation challenges and replace the Fire Island VOR (VHF omni-directional radio range) aircraft navigation facility with a new and upgraded digital VOR that we constructed at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Next, our wind project is on an island that needed to be connected to the mainland’s Railbelt electric grid. This required installation of submarine transmission cables across three miles of Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm. Workers had to venture out onto the mud flats during low tides and retreat to the safety of a barge during high tides.

Finally, we had to construct the wind turbines and associated infrastructure without an on-island port. We had to deploy all project materials and heavy equipment, including the largest crane operating in Alaska, to the island by barge, making repeated tide-dependent beach landings and off-loadings. We had to build roads and facilities across the six-mile-long island to accommodate the project and workers. And we had to build the project within the constraints of Anchorage, Alaska’s short construction season.

CIRI shareholders and staff should be proud of our Company’s accomplishment in completing this project. I know I am! It demonstrates that CIRI is transforming itself from being a company that relies primarily on passive investments into a diversified company that can actively develop, manage and operate projects.

Over the years, CIRI has participated in large development projects, mostly as an investor and not as the developer. Fire Island Wind stands out as the biggest project that CIRI has self-developed and financed in its 40 year history. It is not CIRI’s biggest investment, but it will likely have outsized impact on our future business strategies and the way we are viewed.

There is no doubt that CIRI was well served by its expert consultants, contractors and sub-contractors. To all who had a hand in the successful completion of Fire Island Wind, I offer my deepest gratitude and appreciation.I visited Fire Island at the height of the construction and saw many Alaska contractors and workers building the project. It was tangible evidence that business is flourishing in our state and that CIRI and other Alaska Native corporations are helping to shape and transform Alaska’s economic landscape.

CIRI has made significant investments in its 40 years of existence. It has invested in its shareholders and employees through dividends and wages. It has invested in education, employment, health care, cultural and social services by establishing a system of non-profit organizations. The Company has deployed capital investments in and outside of Alaska’s borders. Even its out-of-state investments benefit Alaska’s economy by earning profits that are imported into the state and reinvested in local businesses or distributed as wages and dividends.

Through time, CIRI has diversified its investments and become an active business operator and project developer. It has partnered with highly qualified, expert companies to purchase operating businesses or develop projects throughout the country. The successful completion of our Fire Island Wind project demonstrates our Company’s capacity to find and benefit from opportunities near and afar. Fire Island Wind proves that CIRI has the ability and resolve to overcome challenges and complete projects that benefit its shareholders, our region and our state.