Gary Stone – Water & Integrated Cropping Systems Extension Educator; Jessica Groskopf – Extension Educator for Agricultural Economics; John Thomas - Water & Integrated Cropping Systems Extension Educator; Xin Qiao – Irrigation & Water Management Specialist; David Ostdiek – Communications Specialist, Panhandle REC
In the months following the collapse of Tunnel No. 2 on the Goshen / Gering-Fort Laramie main canal in July 2019, temporary repairs were made to Tunnels No 1 and 2. Steel ribs were installed inside the tunnels to support the concrete tunnel walls.
The tunnel collapse and resulting washout of the supply canal south of Fort Laramie, Wyo., immediately ended water deliveries by Goshen and Gering-Fort Laramie districts for 44 days, during the critical growth period for crops. About 107,000 acres were affected by the loss of irrigation water, and many farmers' yields were reduced as a result.
The temporary repairs allowed the irrigation districts to resume deliveries in 2020, but installation of the ribs restricted water flow to 80-85 percent of capacity of the tunnel.
During the winter of 2020-21, metal sheeting was installed over the ribs to increase water flow through the tunnels. This increased the water flow through the tunnels to 97 percent of capacity in the summer of 2021. Water deliveries by the three major irrigation districts in the North Platte Valley (Goshen and Gering-Fort Laramie on the south side of the river, Pathfinder Irrigation District on the north) were near normal for the 2021 growing season.
The districts had to utilize some storage water to meet the needs of the growers, leaving the reservoirs in Wyoming at lower-than-average carryover at the end of the water year. In mid-October, Seminoe Reservoir was at 31 percent, Pathfinder Reservoir at 58 percent, and Glendo Reservoir at 32 percent of capacity.
For spring runoff to fill the reservoirs by the 2022 irrigation season, major snowfall events would be needed in the Snowy Range and Siera Madre mountains of north-central Colorado and south-central Wyoming this winter.
Inspection of the tunnels by the irrigation districts and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was scheduled for the week of Oct. 18. Permanent repairs to the tunnels still must be completed, the final construction plans pending approval from the Bureau of Reclamation.