Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake is a valuable asset for the Navy that likely wouldn’t be threatened by a prospective BRAC round, the Navy’s top installations official told the China Lake Alliance during a luncheon last week.
At the same time, the aquifer that China Lake relies on is in overdraft, jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of the installation located in the Western Mojave Desert region of California, said Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment.
“Even if there were not China Lake and the Naval Air Warfare Center here, this would be an unsustainable situation,” he said, reported the Ridgecrest Daily Independent. “If you’re pulling more out of the aquifer than is being replenished, it’s going to go away, and there will be economic impacts of that.”
McGinn’s comments were hardly surprising for the alliance, which has the made ensuring the long-term sustainability of the aquifer that supports the Indian Wells Valley its highest priority. The alliance, the community-military support group for the installation, has been working with officials from Kern County and the Navy on a solution, which is expected to take several years to identify.
One step toward that solution will be the formation of a local groundwater sustainability agency.
Beyond the issue of China Lake’s water security, McGinn told the alliance that the installation is well positioned for a future round of base closures.
“Over the years, China Lake has done a tremendous amount of work and analysis in demonstrating military value, which is the primary characteristic that is looked for when you’re deciding whether to keep open, close or augment a base,” he said.
It’s unclear when Congress will green light a BRAC round, McGinn told attendees.
“Maybe next year. But I’ll tell you, if you keep doing the things you’re doing, continuing to focus on effectiveness of mission … and making the case that a taxpayer dollar spent here produces capability where and when it’s most needed, BRAC for China Lake is an interesting factor, but one that’s not threatening,” he said.