The huge and complex China Lake earthquake recovery project has a tentative start date of late 2020 (the first quarter of fiscal year 2021). That was the word from Captain Laurie Scott. Scott, who is commanding officer heading up the field team that’s going to oversee China Lake construction, gave the community a first look at the projected workload and schedule for the earthquake recovery effort as part of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest’s “Meet the Buyers” Industry Day at the Kerr McGee Center Tuesday.

NAVFAC is the principle entity in charge of rebuilding new China Lake facilities after the Ridgecrest earthquakes in July 2019. Scott will be “on the deck full-time on the base” managing the construction according to Captain Michael Oestereicher, Commander NAVFAC Southwest.

Speaking tentatively, Scott said construction will first begin on the main magazine area/ magazines and inert storage facility around the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021 — November or December 2020. The government fiscal year runs from Oct. 1, 2020 though Sept. 30, 2021.

Public Works Officer Commander Peter Benson at the IWV Economic Outlook Conference Thursday added that work will begin on the South Airfield around May or June of 2021. Scott said work will begin on Michelson Lab and community support facilities around the third quarter of fiscal year 2021.

All construction timelines are estimates only and plans are subject to change.

Funding approved so far is approximately $2.3 billion for the recovery program, plus an additional $400 million for other necessary work. Recovery construction will mark an unprecedentedly large project. At its peak, the recovery effort is expected to bring around 1,500 additional workers to the Ridgecrest area.

Scott: ‘A very aggressive timeline’

Following what Scott called “a very aggressive timeline to bring NAWCWD back to full mission capability” the proposed renovation includes 18 projects to be funded by the $2.3B funded in the federal fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill. The amount of the funding came as a surprise. By all accounts, the expectation was that the funding would be made available across two fiscal years rather than one.

According to Scott the following number represent program amounts, not necessarily construction amounts.

In all 9 projects are on the list for fiscal year 20 planned awards, totaling about $1.4B. Planned are around $948M in projects at the South Airfield, including the following: Hangar 3 replacement $515M; Integration Lab $150M; Air Ops and ATC Tower $71Ml; Aircraft parking apron for Hangar 2: $51M; Advanced weapons hangar: $117M and Aircraft rescue and fire fighting Sta: $45M. The main magazine area project is projected to cost $139M. Also on the list for fiscal year 20 planned awards areMichelson Mission Systems Integration Lab at $202M and community support facilities at $86M.

Projects for fiscal year 2021 planned awards include $396M for the Propulsion Lab/South Wells. This breaks down to cast propellant mix building $56M; Ordnance test support and tech services lab $88M; Radiographic building $53M; warhead casing operations $23M; Motor assembly compound $52M and Skytop firing bays $124M. Also on the list for fiscal year 2021 planned awards are the Range Control Complex $192M and the Michelson Lab Complex $282M and the training building $35M.

Mainside projects will total $604M and be split across two fiscal years. These include the two Michelson Lab projects, community support facilities and academic training building all listed above.

According to Scott, there will be a main construction office and three satellite construction offices in the vicinity of ongoing construction, with support staff onsite. He said that “the center of gravity for fiscal year 2020 is really the South Airfield” and “the center of gravity for fiscal year 2021 is really the China Lake Propulsion Laboratory.”

An issue raised by several during the Q and A period was expediting access to the base for large number of workers. One proposed partial solution was a mass-vetting process.

Oestereicher: ‘These are projects that are necessary for our national defense’

Oestereicher emphasized the importance of rebuilding China Lake after the Ridgecrest earthquakes July 4 and 5 of last year.

“Keep in mind that these are not going to be just projects that are going to be built. These are projects that are necessary for our national defense . . . That earthquake damaged some of the most critical facilities that we have in the entire Navy,” he said.

Also speaking at the industry day Tuesday were NAWCWD Commander Rear Admiral Scott Dillon and Ridgecrest City Manager Ron Strand. (See related story this edition for Strand’s comments.) The event served a double function: announcing the Navy’s timeline for the recovery effort and allowing business, contractors and subcontractors to make contacts with one another, hopefully expediting the building process.

Over 550 people attended the morning session, which unveiled the Navy’s projected workload and schedule effort. This session included a report from Strand on city resources and a panel discussion during which Strand, Scott and others held a question and answer period. The afternoon session facilitated a “matchmaking” session among NAVFAC prime contractors, subcontractors and businesses interested in taking part in the effort.

Dillon also spoke briefly about the China Lake earthquake recovery effort and schedule at the Indian Wells Valley Economic Outlook Conference at the Kerr McGee Center Thursday.

The Daily Independent will continue to provide updates on this story as it unfolds.

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