Official gives update on irrigation tunnel collapse in eastern Wyoming that cut water supplies to Nebraska panhandle

Its been almost two weeks since an irrigation tunnel in eastern Wyoming collapsed, cutting off water to parts of the Nebraska panhandle.

The incident is causing several farmers to hope for rain to keep their crops alive.

Tuesday, General Manager of the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation District Rick Preston provided an update of the situation to News Channel Nebraska. He said crews are making their way to the collapse site in the tunnel.

“What they’re doing is going in and drilling holes from the inside of the tunnel to the outside,” Preston said. “They’re pumping grouts in to make sure there’s no voids for the safety of personnel that will be working in that tunnel. By Saturday, they will be down to where the collapse is at.”

Work has also begun on the portion of the canal that was damaged after water backup caused by the tunnel collapsed, Preston said. He said the canal portion of the damage would be ready to take water again in 10-12 days.

While the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation District and other agencies work toward a solution, there’s also the question of finding the funding to fix the collapse.

According to Preston, since the incident occurred in another state, Nebraska has a set of laws that dictate what it can do for funding.

The Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation District, which is based in Gering, has responsibilities on both sides of the state line. Preston said the canal system was originally built as part of the North Platte Project. The state line does not matter to the project and the irrigation districts that manage the canal system because the canal system traverses the border, according to Preston. That may work in their favor.

“I believe our governor and constituents understand the difference,” Preston said. “At this time, they’re in the process of trying to find ways to eliminate the state line because Nebraska benefits from the water and the revenues and everything that comes from it. There’s still some hoops that we have to jump through, but it sounds like there’s some positive possibilities that we can make this work.”

The tunnel collapse occurred on July 17 and affects over 100-thousand acres in both Wyoming and Nebraska.

Preston said officials at every level -local, state and federal – are working toward a permanent solution.

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