Feds providing $2.3M for repairs to irrigation system tunnel

A tunnel collapsed in the Gering-Fort Laramie Canal on July 17th (Source KNEP)
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GERING, Neb. (AP) — A federal agency intends to provide a $2.3 million loan to help pay for repairs to an irrigation system tunnel that collapsed last July, cutting off water to farmers in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming.

The Bureau of Reclamation loan will be in addition to a $3.8 million grant that Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has said the state will provide to the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation District. Some or all of the federal loan could later become a grant, officials said.

The 14-foot-wide (4.3-meter) tunnel that collapsed is part of the Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal that runs above and below ground, delivering water from a pool created by the Whelan Diversion Dam on the North Platte River to eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.

The collapse left more than 150 square miles (400 square kilometers) of cropland without irrigation water at the peak of summer, officials said. Temporary repairs got the water flowing again by the end of August.

Permanent repairs are expected to cost about $16 million, with the cost being split roughly in half between those in both states, said the district’s general manager, Rick Preston.