Tag Archives: gering-ft. laramie irrigation district

The Wyoming Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation in Mills, Wyo. announced on Sept. 3, it will begin lowering the water level in Guernsey Reservoir, as the 2019 irrigation season draws to a close.

The Bureau of Reclamation will begin drawing down Guernsey Reservoir on Monday, Sept. 9. The reservoir will drop 12 feet to reach an elevation of 4400.00 feet by

Sept. 17. The drawdown will vary from then, as irrigators along the Ft. Laramie Canal system is just now getting to irrigate crops. 

“We’re trying to position Glendo and Guernsey, and our reservoir system to handle any adjustments they’ll (irrigation districts) make on those deliveries this month,” said Shane Hayden public relations with the Reclamation Wyoming Office 

The demand for water deliveries from the Goshen and Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation Districts are high. 

Producers along the canal are watering corn, sugar beets and alfalfa, to make weight or get another cutting before it freezes. While the water is now available, there is only so much time before a frost occurs.

“Heaven forbid we get any frost before the first week of October,” said Rick Preston district manager at Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District. “I would imagine after about 10 or 12 days the guys who are putting water on corn and beans will shut off. I got a feeling they want to give those crops a real good drink before finishing.”

Sugar beet growers will likely water up until the end of September to increase their tonnage. 

The wild card is the weather. An early freeze will end the growing season and water deliveries.

Preston said that even without a freeze, they would likely end irrigation in the first part of October. 

Hayden added Glendo Reservoir levels are expected to continue gradually declining and reach a water surface elevation near 4597.30 feet around Sept. 30.

The long wait is over, irrigators in the Goshen and Gering Ft. Laramie Irrigation Districts will have water return to the Ft. Laramie Canal on Wednesday (Aug. 28) evening.

The temporary fix is in place at the number 2 tunnel. The number 1 tunnel, about six miles upstream, also had repair work. 

“Well, we had a couple of spots where the concrete had popped out or chafed out,” said Rick Preston district manager of the Gering Ft. Laramie Irrigation District. “It wasn’t anything real major, and then in the ceiling, there was a piece of concrete hanging down about an inch or so from the rest of the concrete.”

The Bureau of Reclamation had the irrigation districts put some shoring in the ceiling area. So, it wouldn’t become a problem for the rest of the season.

The irrigation districts also did some cleanup work, removing dirt in the canal where the contractors had piled it while working. The irrigation districts hauled the dirt out of the canal, and the bank reshaped to handle the water.

The water will begin to refill the canal on Wednesday night with the temporary fix in place. 

“The water deliveries will be scaled back depending on demand, and we can’t deliver 100 percent with the temporary fix,” Preston said.

He added it’s likely they will only be able to get about 80 percent of what everyone is entitled to in water deliveries.

The Bureau is considering extending the irrigation season, but nothing will be known for another 10 or 12 days on whether than can make an extension or weather allows for it.

Both the Goshen and Gering Ft.-Laramie Irrigation Districts will be working on a permanent fix for the canal. A final repair is still on the table with a few options, with a decision a couple of weeks off.

On Aug. 23, Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Steve Wellman thanked US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the Risk Management Agency for the determination of an insurable event for those affected by the collapse of an irrigation tunnel near Fort Laramie. The tunnel collapsed July 17, cutting off irrigation to more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Nebraska and Wyoming at a crucial time during the growing season.

“The canal collapse has been a devastating event for our farm families in the Panhandle,” said Gov. Ricketts.  “Thank you to Secretary Perdue and USDA for working to make this an insurable events. This will help impacted farm families as they work to get back on their feet.”

“Farmers have already faced many hardships this past year,” said Director Wellman. “Hopefully this decision takes some stress off the farmers. Secretary Perdue knows that it’s not just the farmers who lose in situations like this, but the loss of crops ripples through local economies, too. Secretary Perdue’s announcement on this situation creates a positive impact on those affected and on our communities, as well.”

Crews are still working to clear debris and make repairs to restore water to the irrigation tunnel canal.

The question on many farmers minds is when will the Ft. Laramie Canal be repaired? It’s a question Rick Preston, district manager of Gering-Ft. Laramie District gets at least ten times a day.

“It’s still a question no one, yet knows the answer to,” he said.

The crews with SAK construction are ready to move onto the second collapse in the tunnel, but they are waiting for large metal boxes to shore up the sinkhole.

“If things go well and we can get the shoring boxes in place and settled by Saturday or Sunday. The contractor told me it would probably be 48 to 72 hours and we should know just about when we can put water in,” Preston said.

The tunnel collapse created a sinkhole and Goshen Irrigation and Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation districts have been removing dirt from the hill around the sinkhole.

Enough of the dirt above the tunnel has been removed, and the shoring boxes are ready to be placed around the sinkhole.

“As of 11 a.m. (Aug. 19) the first shoring box started going in,” Preston said. “By Tuesday (Aug. 20) night, we’re hoping to have the first three boxes set.”

The situation is complicated since the boxes are heavy at about 15 tons each. They are too heavy for the excavation equipment. A crane has been ordered to move the boxes. In the meantime, the boxes are being maneuvered into place by the excavation equipment.

The boxes will be placed end to end, and the contractors will go in and weld securing straps on the inside of the boxes. Then the crews will be able to start excavating the dirt from the second collapse.

“While we’re excavating the dirt out of them, gravity will pull them down to where we want them,” he said. “The contractors will then go back in the tunnel and become more aggressive in the second area (collapse), get it cleaned up, shored up and possibly get some water.”

The Bureau of Reclamation has been working with the irrigation districts to ensure money is available for the temporary fix of the tunnel. The Bureau has committed $4 million for the temporary fix with a 50-year payback.

The irrigation districts will meet with the Bureau on Tuesday, Aug. 20, to discuss funding for a permanent fix.

Everyone from individuals to businesses and government agencies has been helping, Preston said. We’re lucky to live in such caring communities.

The July 17, tunnel collapse of the Ft. Laramie Canal could cost as much as $89 million to its surrounding communities. 

An economic impact report was done by the University of Wyoming Extension and Nebraska Extension and the two organizations report the loss of irrigation water could result in a total crop failure.

“We looked at a total crop loss of corn, dry edible beans, sugar beets and a third of the loss of alfalfa in that area,” said Jessica Groskopf, Nebraska Extension ag economist. 

The impact of the loss of those dollars from the commodities would eventually show up within the rest of the community.

Production of irrigated crops is critical to Goshen County and Scotts Bluff County in Wyoming and Nebraska, respectively. The collapse of the tunnel and the resulting breach of the Ft. Laramie Canal has stopped diversions of water. So construction workers can inspect and repair the damage.

The study doesn’t give specifics on one crop over another in terms of failure. 

“There is a lot of variabilities such as the types of soils and the crops themselves,” Groskopf said. “So we looked at total crop loss.” 

The extensions used the best data available for the economic impact model.  

The $89 million includes not only the crops but also the landowner or farmers time and investment into their crop. 

“It’s not actual money, which is being lost,” she said. “Obviously, if they don’t have a crop to sell, they will not be re-investing in their household, equipment, or other items.”

Groskopf added, the $89 million is a potential loss, which could change with water or other factors.

The complete report is available online at https://go.unl.edu/canal

The Gering Ft. Laramie District updated constituents on the construction at the Ft. Laramie Canal on Monday, Aug. 12, at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff.

The work on the canal wall breach is complete and ready for when the tunnel work is complete.

SAK Construction has passed the first tunnel collapse and is now nearing the second tunnel collapse. The construction business has three crews working 24/7, with five workers in the tunnel at a time and the other three outside making sure air and supplies get to them. 

Rick Preston district manager of the GFLD said the second tunnel collapse could be a problem.

“If they get there and it’s not just the ceiling that has fallen through, but the sidewalls, we will move onto a permanent fix,” he said. “He (contractor) believes the collapse is eight foot wide.”

If the walls have collapsed, there is not enough time, before the irrigation season is over to patch them. Plus, water moving through the tunnel without concrete walls will push the sand and debris with it compounding problems downstream.

Preston was quick to add the work, already done, will go towards both a temporary fix and a permanent one.

“We’re not spinning our wheels on a temporary fix,” he said. “Everything we do applies to the future of a permanent fix.”

The Goshen and Gering Ft. Laramie Districts are also getting a request together for the Bureau of Reclamation for financial assistance on a temporary and permanent fix. 

“They (Bureau) have worked with other agencies and have scraped together $4 million to help,” said Preston. “What’s not there we’ll have to come up to pay the rest.”

Congressman Adrian Smith was also at the meeting. He said he’d like to see things resolved with as little financial impact to the area as possible. 

“I’m glad restoration is taking place, and things are moving along,” Smith said. “The issue is still not resolved.”

He added he’s been talking with the Bureau of Reclamation, USDA, and the Risk Management Agency since crop insurance is among the main concerns for farmers affected.

“We want to make sure we can access as many resources as we can,” Smith said. 

If the tunnel is repaired and water returns this month. Preston said he might ask the Bureau to extend the irrigation season.

“By contract, our water season runs from May 1 to Sept. 30, and by Sept. 30, we have to be shut down,” he said. “If we continue to get good weather, I might ask to continue water for another 7 to 10 days.”

The extra days would help farmers maybe plant some grains for forage or finish off a crop. 

Preston said the irrigation districts would know more on the tunnel situation by the end of the week. 


The North Platte Natural Resources District board of directors on Aug. 8, acted unanimously to provide more than $30,000 in financial relief to the Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District (GFLID) for repairs to the Ft. Laramie Canal. 

The canal suffered a tunnel collapse and canal bank damage on Wednesday, July 17, in Goshen County, Wyo. Irrigation to more 100,000 acres has been disrupted in both Goshen County and Scotts Bluff County. 

The Scotts Bluff County irrigators are part of the NPNRD’s constituents, just as they are the GFLID’s patrons. 

“Our board wanted to do something to help them get their water deliveries sooner,” said John Berge, general manager of the NPNRD. “That’s the first goal, the second is, the longer the water stays out of the canal, we lose return flows that count towards our depletions and our obligations under the integrated management plan.”

The Gering drain collects the irrigation water and sends it onto the North Platte River. The flow compared to last year at this time has decreased considerably.

“When there is no irrigation, there are no return flows to the drain and ultimately back to the river,” Berge said. 

The NPNRD is using mitigation dollars. It has budgeted for disasters over the past four years. The board did something similar a few years back when Brown’s Canyon irrigation drain was discovered to be disintegrating. Without repairs, it could have disrupted water deliveries to 26,000 acres in Mitchell and Gering. 

The NPRD Board agreed to a direct contribution of $25,000 and agreed to provide 100 percent of sponsorship receipts for their 2nd Annual Water Expo to the GFLID, which could be around $10,000.

The Water Expo will be held Saturday, Aug. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the NPNRD in Scottsbluff. For more information visit www.npnrd.org.