Work progressing on repairing collapsed irrigation tunnel

Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District General Manager Rick Preston with drawing of tunnel repair (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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July 30, 2019 - 5:03pm

Progress is being made on repairing a collapsed irrigation tunnel in Wyoming that’s cut off irrigation water to a more than a hundred thousand acres in that state and in Nebraska.


The collapse occurred about 700-800 feet into a 2,200-foot tunnel along the Gering-Ft. Laramie-Goshen canal. Rick Preston, General Manager of the Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District, said Tuesday afternoon so far, workers have shored up about the first 400 feet. Meanwhile, Preston said, soil is being removed from above the tunnel, which is about 110 feet below ground. “At present we are moving soils, all the soils above the collapsed area. We’re taking dozers, paddle scrapers and excavators and we’re moving all that dirt clear down to the top of the tunnel to try to lessen the safety risk as they’re working in the system. So, actually what we’re doing, we’re just taking weight off the top of the tunnel so they have a little more safety in what they’re doing,” Preston said.

Because of the sandy-gravelly soil, they need to gently slope the sides and create shelves to avoid further collapses. Preston says the result will be about a 500-by-500-foot hole, hopefully by Saturday night, when the tunnel workers are expected to reach the collapsed section.

Preston said the whole temporary repair project is estimated to take 20 days from when the work started Sunday night before the flow of water can resume. “The upside is, if we can get this dirt off the top of the tunnel, and they don’t run into any more issues, we might be able to gain two, possibly three days,” he said.

That will help, but thirsty crops have already been largely without water since shortly after the tunnel collapsed July 17. The weather forecast for the next couple weeks shows highs in the 80s and 90s, with a 60-percent chance of rain on Thursday, and a 10-to-20-percent chance after that.

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