Wednesday A.M. Meeting to Focus on Prospects for Collapsed Irrigation Tunnel

Irrigation canal washout from tunnel collapse
Figure 1. Area where the North Platte River Canal breached July 17, flooding nearby fields. Water flow to the canal was stopped and won't be continued until repairs can be made, possibly cutting short the crop season. (Photo courtesy of Chabella Guzman of KNEB Radio)

Wednesday A.M. Meeting to Focus on Prospects for Collapsed Irrigation Tunnel

The Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation District will host a public meeting Wednesday, July 24, in Scottsbluff to share information about the disruption of water deliveries caused by a tunnel collapse along the irrigation district’s main canal on July 17.

Patrons of the Gering - Fort Laramie (GFL) Irrigation District are encouraged to attend the meeting. It will be at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Center, 4502 Avenue I, Scottsbluff.

GFL District Manager Rick Preston will provide a situation update, including:

  • what is known about how the collapse occurred;
  • what steps are being taken to investigate and repair the canal and tunnel structures;
  • the projected scope of the repair work; and
  • prospects and timelines for getting irrigation water flowing again.

In addition, Nebraska Extension educators and specialists will speak about the potential impacts to farmers in terms of crop stress or yield loss.

State and federal officials have been invited to send representatives to listen and provide any relevant information on state or federal recovery assistance. Also invited were public and private organizations with information on financial resources, mental health resources, and other types of assistance.

A second meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Torrington at the Eastern Wyoming College Auditorium. It is being organized by the Goshen Irrigation District along with University of Wyoming Extension.

The collapse occurred in a 2,200-foot-long tunnel along the main GFL canal south of the town of Fort Laramie, Wyo. The collapse caused water in the canal to back up, eventually breaching the canal banks and flooding the immediate vicinity. The Bureau of Reclamation shut water off to the canal at Whalen Dam west of Fort Laramie, the point where it is diverted from the North Platte River.

The canal failure halted water delivery to about 107,000 acres on the south side of the river in Scotts Bluff County, Neb., and Goshen County, Wyo. (55,000 of those acres in Nebraska).

The canal provides water to both Gering-Fort Laramie and Goshen irrigation districts, and the boards of directors of both districts have been meeting to gather information and discuss options for repairing the tunnel and restoring service.