McCarthy gets a look at solutions for water, schools

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

During House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s whirlwind trip to Ridgecrest Tuesday (see related story, this page), he met with leaders from local schools, as well as advocates for China Lake and economic development efforts.

McCarthy spent about an hour with officials of Sierra Sands Unified School District to discuss options for relocating Richmond Elementary School — the last remaining campus on base, and one of the oldest in the city — into the community.

Years of effort culminated in the reopening of Murray Middle School at its current location in fall 2017. The majority of the $70-plus million in funds for rebuilding that campus, as well as the modernization of Burroughs High School, came from Department of Defense funding set aside for meeting the needs of military families.

SSUSD is once again working with the DOD Office of Economic Adjustment to submit a proposal for a new elementary school.

“On Tuesday morning we met with Congressman McCarthy and traveled with his escort on base for a tour of Richmond,” said SSUSD Superintendent Ernie Bell.

District officials discussed with McCarthy and his team the requirements and timeline associated with the project.

“He agreed that the school is in pretty bad shape and we need to address some things relating to student need,” said Bell.

“I also thanked him for his service to our community. He has a genuine interest in our valley and the protection of our residents and our students. Without his support, I don’t believe we would have been as successful in providing these facilities for our students.”

Bell said that McCarthy has also been instrumental in protecting Federal Impact Aid money, which is provided to offset the reduced tax base of government industry.

McCarthy also met with members of the China Lake Alliance and the IWV Economic Development Corp.

According to IWVEDC Executive Director Scott O’Neil, the two organizations worked with McCarthy — among others — to have a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that funds water and security issues for our area.

Coso Geothermal has generated recently as much as $15 million annually in power sales royalties that go to the Navy. In accordance with the 2019 NDAA, half of those royalties are now to be spent locally on projects that support sustainability for the base in energy and water.

Chief among those proposed expenditures are a series of exploratory wells in the northwest and southwest portions of the valley to help establish a baseline for groundwater available in order to plan for future growth.

Additional details will be reported as they become available.

Story First Published: 2019-05-31