Millions secured for energy, water

McCarthy, Cook champion legislation that preserves locally generated revenue for China Lake interests

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Millions secured for energy, waterDave Janiec of China Lake Alliance (left) and Scott O’Neil of IWC Economic Development Corp. address the media Thursday morning about the newly approved funding. — Photo by Laura Austin

------

Legislation passed through both the U.S. House and Senate this week includes a provision for China Lake to retain some $7.5 million in funding toward water and energy security.

Although the funding could be useful in collecting data and supporting other projects related to the state’s mandate for groundwater management, champions of the effort note that those efforts are just one facet of longterm water sustainability and energy independence.

“China Lake is among the most important military installations in our nation,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who collaborated with Rep. Paul Cook to help craft and pass the legislation.

The NDAA awaits only the president’s signature before being enacted as law.

“The men and women at China Lake push the envelope every day — designing, testing and improving the tools American servicemembers need to defend our country and allies across the globe.”

Coso Geothermal, which is located on China Lake’s North Range in Inyo County (Cook’s congressional district), has been generating power and selling it to Southern California Edison, since 1987. In that time, the Navy has collected nearly a half a billion dollars in royalties off that power sale its land ownership entitles it to.

Little of that money, however, has been reinvested at China Lake.

With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, half of those royalties — which average about $15 million each year — will used for projects that will support water and energy needs for the base and the neighboring community that houses its workforce.

Although McCarthy and Cook helped carry the ball across the finish line, early architects include Scott O’Neil, executive director of the Economic Development Corp., and David Janeic, executive director of the China Lake Alliance.

Leveraging their backgrounds as longtime civilian leaders on the base, the pair began working with McCarthy and many others to secure a portion of the locally generated funding to invest in China Lake infrastructure and solutions.

Although both pointed out that the longterm needs of the Navy’s mission at China Lake are complex, they noted that the immediate need to establish the state-mandated groundwater sustainability plan helped expedite the endeavor.

The California Groundwater Management Act created a sense of urgency, said Janiec, and some of these funds could provide some of the funding toward projects related to the GSP — which must be complete by January 2020.

Those projects may include further study of the basin, including drilling of additional monitoring wells.

Some have asked whether the money could be used to buy out local agricultural interest. Janiec said that would not be an appropriate use of the money.

“Even if we eliminated ag from the valley, it would not necessarily solve our longterm problem,” he said.

There are still many parts of the process that need to be refined and implemented — such has how the existing local agencies will be able to advise Navy authority in project priority and need.

Both acknowledged McCarthy and Cook for their significant role in securing the funding.

“McCarthy recognized the significance of China Lake to this community, his district and national defense — and he deserves credit for his advocacy,” said Janiec.

“But it is important for our community to know that Cook played an important role in this as well.”

O’Neil, who took over EDC in January 2017, helped oversee the division of the EDC and CLA last fall to allow each organization to function more agilely in their respective roles in fundraising and advocacy.

“What happened with this legislation, getting this section of the NDAA in place, is exactly how we envisioned the CLA and EDC operating and why we divided the organizations to allow for the two distinct focuses,” said O’Neil.

“But I think this accomplishment also underpins some of the opportunities ahead of us.

“We have a huge number of assets in this community that we are not appropriately valuing, and this is just the beginning of what we can achieve.”

“There is so much more on our plates that we will be working on in the future,” said Janiec.

“This is not the panacea, this is not the ultimate solution, this is just the first step toward water and energy independence as a whole.”

Story First Published: 2018-08-03