On July 4-5, 2019, two massive earthquakes struck on the Ridgecrest spur of the ancient Garlock fault roughly 150 miles north of Los Angeles in the middle of the Mohave Desert. The initial big quakes (6.4 and 7.1 consecutively on the modified Richter Scale), were followed by a storm of more than 26,000 aftershocks, some upwards of 5.0 in magnitude. 

At the time, news coverage showed some cracks in the earth and a few winkled roadways. Most of us went “7.1! 6.4! Ho Hum, there’s nothing in the Mohave except desert, right?”

Nope, not right. That particular stretch of desert is home to one of the most “Top Secret” U.S. military establishments in the world, China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS in militaryspeak). The installation is the Navy’s largest single landholding, representing 85 percent of the Navy’s land for research, development, acquisition, testing and evaluation (RDAT&E) use and 38 percent of the Navy’s land holdings worldwide. In total, its two ranges (Point Magu for naval testing) and land bombing at China Lake covers more than 1.1 million acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

For 75 years, China Lake served as the proving ground for advances in U.S. military air superiority. It’s where weapons like the cruise missile and laser-guided bombs cut their baby teeth so they could chew up potential adversaries, or better yet, dissuade them from messing with us in the first place. 

Scope of Work

When the dust settled, the damage report was massive. Of the 1,341 base buildings, from tiny to huge, including hangers, critical labs, and essential weapons magazines, the initial report said 231 sustained damages that initial estimates said could cost as much as $2.2 billion to restore.

They found more, and the latest construction estimate pegged at $3+ Billion with a capital B. The San Diego-based Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest (NAVFAC) provided the initial estimates, drawing on calculations from damage assessment teams, other evaluations, and “plant replacement value,” which put the overall value of China Lake’s facilities at $5.2 billion.

Late last year, the Navy awarded four primary contracts initially valued at $980.3 million with $2 billionplus expected to be put out for bid this fiscal year. Arrangements for temporary housing for construction workers on the projects are underway.

“The construction projects awarded during Fiscal Year 2020 represent about half of the major military construction effort required to restore the installation to its full operational capability,” said Captain Mike Oestreicher, NAVFAC commanding officer. 

Each contract action is a task order on a multiple award construction contract with numerous companies on each project. The awarded task orders will fund the demolition, removal, design and construction of new facilities to replace those damaged beyond repair by the earthquakes. 

The awarded contract task orders include:

  • Missile Magazines and Inert Storage Facility – Awarded April 14, a $99.8 million task order to Reyes Construction Inc. of Pomona, Calif. for the design and construction of 25 new magazines and an inert storage facility. The project completion is targeted by August 2022.
  • South Airfield Complex Buildout – Awarded September 10, a $737.8 million task order to Environmental Chemical Corp. of Burlingame, Calif. for the design and construction of the South Airfield Complex, including two aircraft hangars, airfield pavement, an Air Traffic Control Tower, a Fire Station, and an RDT&E laboratory, to be completed by November 2023.
  • P1916 Community Support Facilities – Awarded September 3, a $46.2 million task order to SOLPAC Construction Inc. of San Diego, Calif. for the design and construction of a fitness center and multipurpose religious facility, to be completed by September 2022
  • P1903 Michelson Mission Systems Integration Laboratory – Awarded September 17, a $96.5 million task order to Harper Construction Company of San Diego, Calif. for the design and construction of a multilevel secured integration laboratory for RDT&E.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for bid opportunities on these and other military work in our region.