Earthquake renders China Lake ‘non mission capable’

McCarthy fast-tracks $100 million to help reopen bases impacted by disaster

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Earthquake renders China Lake ‘non mission capable’Following the 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes that rocked Indian Wells and Searles valleys last week, China Lake — virtually on the epicenter of both quakes and thousands of subsequent aftershocks — has been deemed “non mission capable.”

While the local Navy installation is not the first to be temporarily closed by a natural disaster, officials believe it may be the first to bear the status “until further notice.”

Naval Air Weapons Station Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Dale gave local and national media a tour of some of the 1,200 facilities located on 1.2 million acres of property. At that point, Margo Allen of the public affairs office said that the Navy was only about 10 percent through their assessment of the damages.

“We cannot forecast the damages at this point, since we are still running assessment teams,” she said.

“NAWS has made the call that the station is open to essential personnel only,” she said, but the 23 separate commands at China Lake — the largest of which is Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division — have been individually tasked with determining which employees must report to work, and where.

This morning, Congressman Kevin McCarthy announced that he introduced an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act to fast-track $100 million to start relief and rebuilding efforts at the bases damaged in the earthquakes.

Trevor Smith, a staffer out of McCarthy’s capitol office, said that because of the ban on earmarked funding, the House of Representatives broadened the relief funds to include Edwards Air Force Base and Fort Irwin Army Base.

“We are looking at this as regional support,” said Smith. While getting China Lake back online is the current priority, they have included contingencies for future damages at the neighboring bases since the NDAA is moving through congress right now.

The provision meets the first step of a two-pronged process, he said. Now that projects are authorized, they still have to be appropriated.

“The challenge is that the funding bill has already moved out of the House,” said Smith. “The NDAA is being considered this week, so it’s a good opportunity to do what we can to get funds.”

The $100 million in repairs are based on conservative estimates, he said, but those numbers can be adjusted as more details become available.

McCarthy arrived in Ridgecrest on July 5 — the morning after the 6.4, and before the 7.1 hit that evening — to assess firsthand some of the damage.

“Despite the destruction, our American spirit has prevailed in the face of adversity, with people from all over the state coming together to help our neighbors. But we are still recovering.”

He said that the authorization will help meet the most immediate needs to modernize infrastructure and facilities as part of the efforts to return to mission-capable status.

“We will make China Lake stronger and better,” he said.

“These bases are critical to the region and our national security, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this amendment to provide much-needed assistance to areas most impacted by the earthquakes in Ridgecrest and other natural disasters.”

Rep. Paul Cook, who represents part of the footprint for China Lake, added his support to the authorization.

“Last week’s earthquakes damaged key military installations in our area. Congress has a duty to ensure these bases are operational and mission-ready.

“We owe it to our men and women in uniform that they have the best tools possible to defend our national security. I thank Leader McCarthy for joining me in recognizing the importance of this amendment and hope that the House will pass it this week.”

Story First Published: 2019-07-10