It could be three to four weeks before irrigation users in the Goshen and Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation Districts have water again.
A natural disaster involving a tunnel collapse and canal wall washout on the Ft. Laramie Canal west of Lingle, Wyo., July 17, left 107,000 acres of crops without water.
The irrigation boards spent the better part of Saturday, July 20, in a meeting looking at options to get water to crops in the districts.
“Option number one is to sleeve the existing tunnel with pipe and get headwalls poured on it and try to get water back into the system,” said Rick Preston, general manager of Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District.
He added the contractor is about 90 percent sure he can get everything done in three weeks or four if there are complications.
The tunnel has concrete and dirt in it, which caused the water flow to backup and breached about 1,300 ft. of the canal wall. The contractor told the board he should be able to remove the debris from the tunnel with little problem.
Cost for this option would run about $6 to $8 million, not including dirt work, which would also be in the millions.
The other option the districts looked at was to bring in large pumps to pump from the North Platte River to the canal. The time frame would be the same, and the cost would be about $6 to $7 million, but after the season the rented pumps would have to be returned.
The tunnel would still have to be repaired. So, the second option was not considered cost-effective.
The sleeve was also estimated to put the canal at close to original capacity.
The districts and board members will meet again on Monday, July 22, to finalize and sign agreements for option one, sleeving the tunnel.
All of the board members, who are farmers, did calculations on the crops survival rate.
Preston said the farmers figured in two weeks with as hot as it’s been they will probably lose 25 percent of crops and 25 percent every week afterward.
“Those are the hard facts based on conditions now, no matter what we do because of the tremendous failure that happened, there is nothing they can do from having crop loss,” he said. “The only question now is how quickly we can get things back together, and that’ll dictate how much crop they’ll be able to save.”
The districts will have to cover the approximate $10 million in costs and will be looking to get grants, loans, or donations to assist with expenses.
Two meetings will be held for farmers and landowners to discuss the impact of the tunnel collapse.
The Panhandle Research & Extension Center, in cooperation with the Gering-Ft Laramie Irrigation District, will be hosting a public meeting Wednesday, July 24, at 10 a.m., in Scottsbluff.
A meeting will also be held Wednesday at 2 p.m., at the Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Wyo. with the Goshen Irrigation District and extension educators.