To the Editor: CLA supports GA fee

The China Lake Alliance is a community based non-profit organization that supports, informs and advocates for the Navy mission at China Lake and the community where the workforce resides. This letter expresses our support for the pending decision by the IWVGA to adopt a Basin Replenishment Fee to provide funds to acquire augmented water rights and mitigate costs for shallow well impacts, both needed to counter the continuing excessive overdraft of our basin.

The Navy has officially cited “groundwater resources as the number one encroachment concern/issue which has the potential to impact missions enabled on and around Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. Water sustainability is critical to NAWSCL’s mission accomplishment.”

Navy, administration, and bi-partisan congressional leadership have strongly committed to restore full mission capability at China Lake, appropriating over $3 billion to achieve that thus far. When completed, China Lake will be the most modern weapons systems research, development, test and evaluation facility in our nation. Without securing future imported water rights, the excessive overdraft of our basin will not support the existing base mission and maintain the quality of life necessary to recruit and retain the world class technical workforce required to execute the mission, much less allow for the growth necessary to support additional mission work critical to national defense.

The CLA supports establishing the fee at this time, as the timing is urgent. There are 21 basins in Critical Overdraft Priority that all submitted a Groundwater Sustainability Plans in January; all but a handful require imported water rights to achieve sustainability. In just 17 months, an additional ninety-four high and medium priority basins are required to submit GSPs and many of them will also be seeking imported water, further driving demand and costs up in the water market. Water rights costs have been escalating rapidly over the last decade and are expected to greatly accelerate given the huge demand created by SGMA. Delaying immediate acquisition of permanent augmented water rights will greatly increase the cost of obtaining water rights with near certainty, while also increasing the very real possibility that Table A “permanent water rights” may not even be offered in the near future. This possibility is already openly discussed in the California water rights market.

As you are aware, the CLA has been advocating for infrastructure funding support for water security for China Lake and our community since 2017. When the IWVGA engaged Capitol Core as their water marketing consultant in 2019, we together began close coordination of our advocacy efforts with Navy and congressional leadership at all levels to ensure consistency and clarity in message and approach. Capitol Core is extremely well positioned, connected, and respected at the local, state, regional, and federal executive and legislative branches, including key committee and sub-committee leadership. Together, we have been engaged at the top levels over the last year and have set the stage for grant opportunities or direct funding to help fund the infrastructure projects necessary to deliver augmented water supplies to the valley at a more affordable cost to residents. We have garnered exceptional support and are poised to capitalize on those efforts at the top levels. Of course, nothing is certain in the political arena, especially in our current election year environment.

Establishing the fee will provide additional credibility in critical negotiations with the Navy, as well as with the L.A. Department of Water and Power and Inyo County with respect to further investigating and potentially securing the most cost effective delivery option for the residents of the valley while ensuring the best outcome for all.

In summary, establishing the fee now will enable our basin to help secure the highest probability of success in achieving affordable water sustainability and a strong future for China Lake and our entire community.

J. David Janiec, executive director

China Lake Alliance

Story First Published: 2020-08-21