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Irrigation districts vote for additional $9 million repair

Irrigation districts vote for additional $9 million repair
SAK Construction working on Ft. Laramie #2 Tunnel in July. RRN/Guzman

We have to have work continue, we have to find financial backing to do it. We have no interest in a loan as the farmer/producer can’t afford the increase to pay on these, so we are going for grants.

- Rick Preston, district manager of Gering Ft-Laramie Irrigation District

A permeation grouting repair of the Ft. Laramie Canal tunnels one and two will bring the total repair cost to about $15 million. 

A unanimous vote from the Gering Ft. Laramie Irrigation District on Thursday, Nov. 21, and a majority vote from the Goshen Irrigation District, later that day, chose the grouting repair as the final fix for the canal tunnels.

“The board (GFLID) kept in mind when this all happened, this (permeation grouting) was a very strong recommendation by the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Rick Preston, district manager for the Gering Ft. Laramie Irrigation District. 

The groups also looked at digging out the canal, but the estimations ran about $14 million and more, which would have been more than $20 million, with the added temporary fix of $6 million for tunnel two.

The $6 million in temporary repairs to tunnel two and $1.9 million to tunnel one were mandatory, to get water to producers this year. 

“The Bureau (of Reclamation) made it clear, regardless of what happens, if we did not do the temporary fix. We would not have water run in 2020,”  Preston said.

Tunnel two’s final fix with grouting will be an additional $3 million, and tunnel one will have a final grouting fix of an additional $4 million.

The permanent fix will most likely take more than a year to complete. SAK Construction, which began the canal fixes after the collapse on July 17, 2019, will complete the repair work to stabilize the tunnel with additional ribbing supports and void grouting.

Goshen Irrigation District will submit the grouting proposal to the Bureau of Reclamation, and they will have to give their approval before the districts can accept bids from a permeation grouting company.

Preston said the districts are now looking to get grant money for the repairs.

“We’re just now addressing grants on the federal level, but we’re also sending letters to our senators and representatives asking for support and help in finding monies for this project,” Preston said. 

Monies the districts receive in grants will go towards the entire project fix. If they don’t get grants, loans would need to be taken out by each district separately and paid back.

“We have to have work continue, we have to find financial backing to do it. We have no interest in a loan as the farmer/producer can’t afford the increase to pay on these, so we are going for grants,” he said. 

The irrigation districts and irrigators have faced a long road since the canal collapsed in July. The collapse left 110,000 acres of cropland in Nebraska and Wyoming without water in an already challenging crop season.

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