$1.15B secured for recovery

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

$1.15B secured for recoveryBy REBECCA NEIPP

News Review Staff Writer

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday that $1.152 billion in funding has been secured for projects to rebuild Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake following the back-to-back earthquakes in July.

The announcement was made in accordance with the release of the conference report accompanying the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

“This matches the full authorization amount requested by the Navy for earthquake recovery-related construction projects,” said McCarthy. The bill also authorizes an additional $64.5 million for runway and taxi extensions at the base.

“China Lake is the top military installation that provides unique vital capabilities to our national defense, including weapons development and research,” said McCarthy.

Following a 6.4-magnitude earthquake on July 4, McCarthy and other elected officials from Kern County toured the base and community on July 5 to help assess damages and secure recovery aid. Later that evening, the base was the epicenter of a 7.1-magnitude quake.

McCarthy said that after he learned the full scope of the damages, “It became my mission to ensure this year’s NDAA would authorize the necessary funds to make repairs to China Lake so the base is rebuilt even stronger.”

On Dec. 5, McCarthy shared a letter co-signed by Rep. Paul Cook, a fellow Republican who shares representation of China Lake, and Democratic U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

The letter to ranking members and chairs of House and Senate Appropriations committees expressed bipartisan support for the Navy’s funding request of $1.78 billion — which includes the military construction funding referenced above as well as another $627 million in defense appropriations.

With the authorization of funding, the next step is to have the funding finalized in Appropriations — which is still in the works.

However, local advocates note that the developments are a good indication that negotiations are advancing in a positive manner.

“What happened is important, because the authorization directs how the money is spent once it is appropriated,” said Scott O’Neil, former executive director of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division and current director of the IWV Economic Development Corp.

“I think it is great to see our leaders in Washington, D.C., with everything else going on, continue to remain active and focused on supporting the reconstruction efforts at China Lake,” said O’Neil.

Dave Janiec, executive director of the China Lake Alliance, noted, “These updated amounts represent an increase in appropriations above those that were included in either of the individual House or Senate Bills passed earlier this year.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein notably requested $585 million in emergency funding shortly after the earthquakes.

Another local winner in this year’s NDAA involves those positively impacted by revenue generation at Coso Geothermal Facility.

Last year, advocates worked with government and elected officials to ensure that China Lake retains 50 percent of the funds generated from electricity sales to fund water and energy security.

More than $5.6 million was generated last year, and is expected to be reinvested in the area.

Staffers in McCarthy’s office said they don’t yet have an estimated timeline for the conclusion of negotiations.

Pictured: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (center) meets with other officials in Ridgecrest following the 6.4 earthquake. - Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-12-13