Short term fix for tunnel collapse in Goshen County – July 26, 2019
–GID holds informational meeting on July 24
Torrington, July 26, 2019–“The only thing we have to live on is optimism and we are running on a get ‘er done attitude,” Goshen County Farmer and Goshen Irrigation District Board President Bob Coxbill told fellow farmers at a July 24th Goshen Irrigation District informational meeting. The meeting provided an update regarding efforts to restore the canal to service following the July 17th tunnel collapse that has left 107,000 acres (52,000 in Wyoming and 55,000 in Nebraska) without irrigation water during a critical time in the growing season.
The meeting was well attended at the Eastern Wyoming College Auditorium. The auditorium seats nearly 700 people and it looked to be near full capacity with landowners, legislators, elected officials and community members.
“This is about every day and every hour to us,” Coxbill continued. “When you calculate the loss by week and look at the number of acres without water you are looking at a half a billion dollars in loss to the local economy; we know the magnitude of these decisions the board has to make.”
“There is a lot of weight carried on these decisions,” he continued. “I’m a numbers guy, but you also have to consider we are people, and this is our livelihood.”
The original plan for a permanent fix had to be scrapped when it was determined the pipe would only carry about 80 percent of the water. Plan B, which is where they are now, is a temporary fix. It was described at Wednesday’s meeting that a tunnel company will come in and put a rib every four feet anchoring to the cement and keep working the way into the tunnel until it is safe to dig out the blockage.
“They will rib, grout, dig out and rib, grout, dig out until we can get water to flow,” Coxbill explained. “The company plans to arrive on Friday (today/July 26) and work around the clock with the goal of the project taking 20 days, but there are a lot of unknowns when going into a caved-in tunnel.”
According to GID officials, the temporary fix on the tunnel is estimated to cost nearly $2 million. They also estimated the cost to repair the canal break at around $2 million.
“We are dreaming of big success,” Coxbill told the crowd. “They (the tunnel company) are pretty confident they can put the safety ribs in there. We have to hope for the best; that is all we have.”
The temporary fix is just for this season, so work continues to figure out a permanent fix and how to pay for the fix. “We still have a lot of irons in the fire,” he continued. “We have a big issue to figure out for both states.”
So, as the tunnel crew gets to work on the repair, the Goshen Irrigation District will continue to work on the next steps for a more permanent fix.
The farmers on the GID board were quick to thank all the volunteers, the staff at GID, and all the community support. This devastation has a large impact and so many have showed up to help.
Senator Cheri Steinmetz, Representative Hans Hunt and Representative John Eklund attended the meeting and spoke about the work and processes for potential funding, both emergency and more permanent funding. Wyoming Treasurer Curt Meier, a representative from Governor Gordon’s office and a representative from United States Senator John Barrasso’s office also spoke of their support. The 51 percent Nebraska to 49 percent Wyoming split will take a lot of collaboration as well as both states have different processes and funding levels.
“We understand what a catastrophic event this is and are deeply concerned at the state level,” stated Senator Cheri Steinmetz. “We are committed to helping you.”
According to Caleb Carter, UW Extension Area Educator based in Goshen County, the Extension is working on an economic analysis to help aid in the funding talks.
A lot of questions still remain, but the support in the room was encouraging. A question and answer session included a comment from one gentleman who led the meeting room in a prayer.
“The main thing is we want to see water come out the end of the tunnel soon,” Coxbill said. “We know the impact this has on hay fields and row crops. It is a huge impact to the lives of people here in our community.”
• An account has been set up at First State Bank in Torrington for those who would like to donate to the canal relief efforts.
• The University of Wyoming Extension is working with the University of Nebraska to build a collaborative website with resources for farmers. Visit go.unl.edu/canal