Irrigation repairs near crucial stage

Entrance to tunnel that collapsed (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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August 9, 2019 - 3:49pm

Repairs are nearing a crucial stage on an irrigation tunnel whose collapse cut off water to more than a hundred thousand acres in  Wyoming and Nebraska.


The tunnel under a hill on the Gering-Ft. Laramie-Goshen canal collapsed July 17, backing up water and breaching the canal. Since then, people have been working to repair the damage.

Rick Preston, general manager of the Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation Districts, says repairs to the open section of the canal are almost done. But workers are just now reaching the portion of the tunnel that collapsed, about 750 feet into the tunnel.

Meanwhile, soil is being remove from on top of the tunnel, which is about 110 feet underground,  to make it safer and to prevent more soil from falling in. Once that’s done, Preston says, repair crews will be able to enter the collapsed section to see exactly which portions of the century-old concrete structure actually collapsed.

“Right now we’re optimistic that it’s just the ceiling, and we should hopefully have water in in the next 12 days. But at the same time that’s just hope, with optimism, until we get in and actually look at what’s there, we can’t commit to anything,” Preston said.

If more of the tunnel has collapsed, Preston said, resuming water service will be a long way away. “If we find that we’ve lost all the walls inside of that area, then we’re dead in the water. We’re going to have to go right straight to the permanent fix, which means we wouldn’t have any water at all this year,” he said.

Preston said the affected area in Scotts Bluff County hasn’t gotten any significant rain since the collapse, and while some crops still look okay, that won’t continue without water.

Editor's note: An earlier text version of this story contained an incorrect date for the tunnel collapse.

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