The July 17, tunnel collapse of the Ft. Laramie Canal could cost as much as $89 million to its surrounding communities.
An economic impact report was done by the University of Wyoming Extension and Nebraska Extension and the two organizations report the loss of irrigation water could result in a total crop failure.
“We looked at a total crop loss of corn, dry edible beans, sugar beets and a third of the loss of alfalfa in that area,” said Jessica Groskopf, Nebraska Extension ag economist.
The impact of the loss of those dollars from the commodities would eventually show up within the rest of the community.
Production of irrigated crops is critical to Goshen County and Scotts Bluff County in Wyoming and Nebraska, respectively. The collapse of the tunnel and the resulting breach of the Ft. Laramie Canal has stopped diversions of water. So construction workers can inspect and repair the damage.
The study doesn’t give specifics on one crop over another in terms of failure.
“There is a lot of variabilities such as the types of soils and the crops themselves,” Groskopf said. “So we looked at total crop loss.”
The extensions used the best data available for the economic impact model.
The $89 million includes not only the crops but also the landowner or farmers time and investment into their crop.
“It’s not actual money, which is being lost,” she said. “Obviously, if they don’t have a crop to sell, they will not be re-investing in their household, equipment, or other items.”
Groskopf added, the $89 million is a potential loss, which could change with water or other factors.
The complete report is available online at https://go.unl.edu/canal