$585M secured for China Lake

First phase of earthquake recovery funding announced

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

China Lake earthquake recovery efforts got a boost with Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s announcement that she has secured $585 million to fund repairs at the Naval Air Weapons Station.

The 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes, which hit July 4 and 5, temporarily closed the installation — which still has a total of 230 buildings in need of repairs and another 84 that will need to be replaced.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, in the week following the quakes, announced that he was able to include a provision for $100 million in the National Defense Authorization Act that passed soon after the natural disasters hit. Since then, local leaders have been working with military and political officials at every level to ensure that China Lake is able to fulfill its critical mission for national security.

“These funds are a much-needed first tranche of what will ultimately be needed to repair the nearly $4 billion worth of damage the base sustained,” said Feinstein in a prepared statement.

The initial funds will start repairs while advocates secure the rest of the needed funding. “The base is a one-of-a-kind facility that’s critical to the Navy’s mission. I am told there are no other options but to rebuild China Lake,” said Feinstein.

According to an assessment conducted by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, more than half the impacted buildings predate the 1980s. The estimated cost to repair or replace infrastructure has topped $2.2 billion. The cost to replace damaged equipment is estimated to be even higher than that.

As aftershocks continue to impact the area, several facilities have remained closed and their programs relocated. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division — the primary tenant on the base — is exploring leasing offsite space to accommodate workers.

Feinstein thanked the Senate Appropriations Committee for including the funding provision, and also acknowledged Mayor Peggy Breeden and other officials for their advocacy.

“This was a joint effort, but I am so proud to work closely with the senator,” said Breeden. “She has called me numerous times to ask what we needed. Her staff has gone above and beyond.”

She also acknowledged the support of McCarthy for continuing to address local recovery needs.

City Manager Ron Strand, who is coordinating municipal recovery efforts, said that the IWV Economic Development Corp. and China Lake Alliance have also added their support to the cause.

“Peggy has done an excellent job leading the effort and building relationships with Feinstein and McCarthy, but this is definitely a group effort,” said Strand.

“There appears to be good bipartisan support for this, and I hope we are able to keep things moving along in the right direction.”

IWVEDC Executive Director Scott O’Neil, who helped procure support from the Kern County Board of Supervisors during their regular meeting last week, said he was pleased to hear the announcement.

“At this junction there is strong backing from the joint services and good bipartisan support to rebuild China Lake to the wholeness of its mission,” said O’Neil.

“This project has a big price tag, but many recognize the importance of China Lake to our national security. We are grateful for the leadership of Sen. Feinstein in securing this support.”

Story First Published: 2019-09-20