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Bill Sniffin: Lots To Do In Goshen County, The Welcome Mat Is Out For State Visitors

in Column/Bill Sniffin
4937

By Bill Sniffin, publisher Cowboy State Daily

TORRINGTON — Not long ago, I made a tour of eastern Wyoming was among the most fun experiences of a near half-century in the state.

Nestled between Devils Tower on the north end and Laramie Peak on the south end and the rugged hills and buttes of western South Dakota and Nebraska, is a very special place, stretching from up north to Hulett down to Pine Bluffs on the south.

One of our recent trips involved three wonderful towns, Torrington, Lingle, LaGrange, and Fort Laramie.

It is hard to find a small city in Wyoming that is more diversified that Torrington.

It has a thriving Ag community including the region’s largest sale barn Torrington Livestock Market plus a community college plus a large home for children and the state’s medium security prison. 

One the town’s biggest annual events is the 2-Shot Goose Hunt and we were there for the annual victory banquet Saturday, Dec. 9, 2018.

Then-Gov. Matt Mead was the biggest celebrity at the event, which he told me he enjoys very much.  Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal also competed that year.  And current governor Mark Gordon also competed. 

Hunters compete in teams of two. One year, Gov. Mead and his wife Carol were a team.  They camped out in their blind and saw nary a bird. Mead later quipped at the banquet that night that they had nothing else to do, so they repeated their marriage vows.

During my stay in Torrington in 2019, Director Bob Mayor gave us a tour of the St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, which was started as an orphanage some 89 years ago. Today, they serve young boys and girls who usually are sent to the home by the courts. They usually stay about six months.

The home is impressive.  Its grounds are beautiful and it has a solemn, beautiful chapel.  Its museum is one of the more distinctive in the state.  The home was founded by Bishop Patrick McGovern of Cheyenne.

Our friends Bryan and Donna Cay Heinz showed us around the area, including some fantastic historic homes.  These old homes had crow’s nests on the roofs where presumably you could watch for hostile Indians or just check on things for quite a distance.

It was fun visiting the Torrington Telegram and meeting publisher Rob Mortimore and then-Editor Andrew Brosig.  I have too much ink in my blood not to just love the smells and sounds of the local newspaper.  And the Telegram is a darned good one. 

The 2-Shot and other events were held in some of the impressive Goshen County Fair buildings.  Hard to imagine a town as small as Torrington having an indoor arena of such size. They host national roping events and you can see why. It is both enormous and impressive.

Another big thing in this small town is the Torrington Livestock Market. It is one of three biggest livestock auction barns in the country.  Hard to imagine the number of cows that go through that place each year.

While I was in Torrington, I gave a talk to the local Rotary Club about my trilogy of Wyoming Coffee Table Books. What an outstanding club.  And the meeting was at the clubhouse of one of the prettiest golf courses in the state. 

Eastern Wyoming College is going through a building boom, which we saw courtesy of one of the students.  President Leslie Lanham Travers is a Lander native, whom I had watched growing up in my town.  John Hansen, the director of institutional development, has a number of impressive projects underway.

The college is all-in when it comes to the trades with a massive welding teaching complex and an ample cosmetology facility.

As a student of Wyoming history, it has always been easy for me to assume that the only major railroad in the state is the Union Pacific, which runs across the southern tier of counties.

But the eastern side of the state was literally also built of towns nestled next to the railroad, which includes Torrington, Lusk, Newcastle, and onward north.

And it is important to note that for 50 years, Goshen County was the center of the entire west because it was home to Fort Laramie. Today it has been restored and is an amazing site to visit.  It is a national monument.  Watch your schedule because it closes at 4:30p.m. even though the sun doesn’t go down until 9 p.m. in June.

For a quarter of a century, my wife Nancy and I owned a newspaper in Winner, S. D. and often drove through eastern Wyoming on our way there from Lander.  Also, since we had relatives in Iowa, we often drove through Goshen County on our drives back and forth. The people were always incredibly friendly, the food was great, and the fields were lush.

During one of my stops in eastern Wyoming we also visited Jeff Rose at the Rose Brothers Implement Store in Lingle.  Last time I saw him, he was climbing Devils Tower with his daughter.  Now he is talking about climbing Gannett Peak.  Good luck on that!

Often the sites and sights of Goshen County are viewed more by out of state tourists than in-state tourists.  We would strongly recommend that this is a great time for Wyoming folks to visit other Wyoming folks.  A trip to Goshen County should be high on your list. I highly recommend it.

The Goshen County Economic Development agency put together a list of things to do:

Explore Goshen County’s Historical Markers

Ash Point Trading Post

California National Historic Trail

Cheyenne Deadwood Stage Route

Cold Springs Emigrant Camp

County Line Grave

Dickens Site

Fort Bernard Trading Post

Government Farm & State Station

Grattan Massacre Historical Monument

Griffin-Gardner House

Harvard Fossil Beds

Horse Creek Treaty

Indian Grave, Quarry, and Camp

Jay Em Bison Kill Site

John Henry Museum

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail

Pony Express National Historic Trail

Rawhide Stage Station

Rawhide Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail 

Red Cloud Indian Agency

Sod House

Stuart Party Camp

Table Mountain Wildlife Habitat

Texas Trail

Texas Trail Marker

The Pioneer Community Center

Three Mile Hog Ranch

United States Postal Service

United States Postal Service

Whalen Diversion Dam

Woodworth Springs

Yoder Home Site

Torrington-Things to Do

Adam Walter Memorial Botanical Park

Basketball Courts

Bird Watching

Bounce City

City Park

Cottonwood Country Club 

Cottonwood Golf Course

Cross the state line

Dale Jones Municipal Swimming Pool

Fishing (90 bodies of water throughout the county)

Frisbee Golf

Geocaching (locations around the county)

Go Goshen Visitor Center

GoGoshen Visitor Center

Goshen County Fair Grounds

Goshen County Library

Goshen County Sportsman’s Club

Grass Roots Walking Trail

Gravity Rail Park

Hiking

Homesteader’s Museum

Jirdon Park

Nebraska State Line

North Platte River

Oregon Trail Historic Trail’

Packer Lake

Picnicking

Pioneer Park

Pleasant Valley Greenhouse & Recreation

Rendezvous Center & Indoor Arena

Stargazing

Table Mountain Vineyards

Tennis Courts

Torrington Cruise Night,  June-September

Torrington Livestock Markets

Torrington Rock Shop

Torrington Skate Park

Torrington Sports Complex

TravelStorys Tour

Walk your Dog

Wyoming Theatre Two

Standing Events

2 Shot Goose Hunt

3rd Thursdays

Ag Breakfast

Car Show

Christmas Festivities

Christmas Parade

Comedy Night

Easter Egg Hunt

Forks Corks & Kegs

Goshen County Fair

Holiday Bazaar

Lions Club Summer Arts and Crafts Festival

National Circuit Finals Steer Roping

Parade of Tables

Pictures with Santa

Prairie Rose Vintage Garden

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Rooster Booster

Rotary Wine Tasting

Sagebrush and Roses

The Polar Express at the Museum

Torrington Farmers Market every Thursday from June until October

Torrington Fire Department Fireworks Show

Trunk-or-Treat

Yeehaw Daze

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

The 307 Bar & Grill

1500 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-8164

Family Variety, Bar & Grill

AJ’s Soda Shop

918 W Valley Rd, Torrington

307-575-7632

Family Variety, Ice Cream, Coffee, Soda

Arby’s

128 W Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-8900

Fast Food

Bee Chilled

Torrington

307-575-3295

Mobile Ice Cream Truck

The Bread Doctor

2017 Main St, Torrington

307-534-2253

Bakery

Broncho Bar

1924 Main St, Torrington

307-532-8660

Bar

Broncho Grill House

1918 Main St, Torrington

307-532-2950

Family Variety, Bar & Grill

Bucking Horse Steakhouse

Hwy 85, Torrington

307-532-8500

Family Variety, Fine Dining

Burger King

1020 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-4505

Fast Food

Canton Dragon

2126 Main St, Torrington

307-532-3888

Chinese

Cottonwood Country Club

2101 W 15th St, Torrington

307-532-4347

Family Variety, Bar & Grill

The Corner Bar

202 Main St, Lingle

307-837-2673

Bar & Grill

Cowboy Cafe

626 W Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-3333

Coffee/Cafe, Family Variety

Cowboy up Coffee

2702 W C St., Torrington

307-575-1392

Coffee/food to go

Deacon’s Restaurant

1558 S Main St, Torrington

307-532-4766

Family Variety

Domino’s Pizza

2741 W C St, Torrington

307-532-0330

Family Variety

Garcia’s

1915 Main Street

307-532-0852

Mexican

J & B Liquor

120 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-2521

Bar

The Java Jar

1940 Main St, Torrington

307-532-8541

Coffee/Café

La Familia Prado

1250 S Main St, Torrington

307-534-1975

Mexican

The Mint

1914 Main St

307-532-7421

Bar

McDonald’s

800 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-0120

Fast Food

Open Barrel Brewing Company

1930 Main St

307-401-0107

Bar/Snack food

Pizza Hut

1120 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-7007

Pizza/Italian

Prairie Creek Books

and Tea

4392 US-26, Torrington 

307-532-3495

Tea

San Pedros

2113 Main Street, Torrington

Mexican

Scott’s Hiway Bar

1202 Main St, Torrington

307-532-3777

Bar & Grill

Subway

1934 W A St, Torrington

307-532-8444

Fast Food

Sweet Lou’s Bakery Café

120 W 20th Ave, Torrington

307-534-6984

Coffee/Café, Bakery

Table Mountain Vineyards

5933 Rd 48, Huntley

307-459-0233

Wine Tasting/Catering/Food Events

Taco Johns

224 W 20th Ave, Torrington

307-532-3711

Fast Food

Lingle-Things To Do

Bird Watching

Ellis Harvest Home

Fishing 

Haven on the Rock

Hiking

Historic Ban Shell 

Historic Jay Em

Jay Em Historic District Tours

Lingle Pool

Newcomb’s Arcade

North Platte River

Oregon Trail Historic Trail

Picnicking

Rawhide Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail

Stargazing

TravelStorys Tour

Walk your Dog

Whipple Park

Wyoming History Center

Standing Events

Car Show

Christmas Lighting Contest

Church in the Park

Fireman’s Ball

Fireman’s Burger Feed

Lingle Volunteer Fire Department – Easter Egg Hunt

Lingle, Mingle, Jingle

Movies in the Park

SAREC Tours

Trunk or Treat

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

The Corner Bar

202 Main St, Lingle

307-837-2673

Bar & Grill

Lira’s Restaurant

E Hwy 26, Lingle

307-837-2826

Mexican

Fort Laramie-Things To Do 

1875 Iron Bridge

B.A. Cave

Bird Watching

Dr. Brownrigg House & Hospital

Fishing 

Fort Laramie Community Center

Fort Laramie Frontier Trading Post

Fort Laramie National Historic Site Audio Tour

Fort Laramie National Historical Site

Fort Laramie Visitor Center

Hell Gap National Historic Landmark

Hiking

Interpretive Programs at the Fort

Mormon Initials Carved on Rock

North Platte River

Oregon Trail Historic Trail

Picnicking

Splash Park

Stargazing

Tracs and Traces

TravelStorys Tour

Walk your dog

Standing Events

4th Fridays (street fair and farmers market] from July through October)

Annual New Year’s Eve Dance

Halloween Party

Easter Breakfast

Easter Egg Hunt

4th of July Fireworks

Old fashion 4th of July activities at the Fort Laramie National Historic site

Christmas with Santa

Summer Street Dance

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

Ft. Laramie American Grill

302 Pioneer Ct, Ft. Laramie

307-837-2324

Family Variety

The Gathering Place

101 Lawton Ave, Ft. Laramie

307-837-3082

Tearoom

Vickie’s Saloon

115 N Laramie, Ft. Laramie

307-587-2288

Bar & Grill

Yoder-Things To Do

Bump Sullivan 

Downer Bird Farm

Fishing

Hawk Springs Easter Egg Hunt

Hawk Springs State Recreation

Hunting

Oregon Trail Historic Trail

Picnicking

Springer Reservoir

Springer Wildlife Management

Stargazing

TravelStorys Tour

Walk your dog

Water Sports

Yoder Abandoned Jail

Yoder Park

Standing Events

Pheasant Dinner [women’s club]

Roster-Booster [Springer bird farm]

Trunk-or-Treat

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

The Emporium

Hwy 85, Hawk Springs

307-532-3442

Bar & Grill

Longbranch Saloon & Steakhouse

525 Hwy 85, Hawk Springs

307-532-4266

Bar & Grill

LaGrange-Things To Do

Basketball court

Bill Ward Memorial Playground

Cookout in Local Park

Cross the State Line

Disc Golf

Enjoy fresh pie at the diner

Fishing

Hiking

Hunting

Library

Picnic

RC race track

Silver Wing Sporting Club

Take a tour of the Historic Heritage Center

Tennis court

Three parks

Walk your Dog

Walking Trail

Standing Events

June Mini Fair [includes pancake breakfast, foot races, lunch, 5k run, car show, garage sale, bands, games, and rodeo]

Annual Fireworks and Ice Cream Social

Community building fund raising through silent auction [soup and desserts auction

Easter Egg Hunt

Halloween Party

Christmas Lightning Contest

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

Bear Mountain Stage Stop

1252 Hwy 85, LaGrange

307-834-0105

Bar & Grill

Longhorn Café

5th Ave, LaGrange

307-834-2432

Family Variety

For more information, contact:

Sandy Hoehn 

Community Development Director

Goshen County Economic Development

Home of Goshen County Economic Development, Chamber and Visitor’s Center

2042 Main Street  | Torrington, WY  82240

Phone  307.532.3879 | Cell 307.575.5919

Repairs on track for collapsed irrigation tunnel near Torrington

in News/Agriculture
Goshen Irrigation Canal water
2582

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

As repairs move forward on an irrigation tunnel near Torrington, the Oregon Trail Community Foundation (OTCF) is slated to disperse donations to affected farmers.

“We’re working on the repairs that the (U.S.) Bureau of Reclamation is requiring, so we can run water next year,” Goshen Irrigation District Manager Rob Posten said. “We have to put in some more support ribs and do some void grouting (between the tunnel wall and surrounding soil) still.”

Built by the Bureau of Reclamation more than 100 years ago, the Gering/Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal collapsed in July, cutting irrigation water off to more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Goshen County and Nebraska.

To help farmers recover losses to crops resulting from the collapse, the OTCF announced it would soon start dispersing $300,000 in donations raised by various organizations and events in the area.

On the tunnel repair side, funding is still in the works, Posten said.

“The Bureau of Reclamation hasn’t paid for anything, but they have offered us some loans,” he explained. “We did get some funding from the Wyoming State Land and Investment Board — about $4 million.”

The long-term loan was given at a 2.5 percent interest rate and could pay for about half the cost of repairs, which Posten said were estimated to be about $8 million.

The boards of directors for both the Goshen and Gering-Fort Laramie irrigation districts are considering applying for additional funding from the State Land Investment Board in the near future, he added.

While the initial estimates for economic impact of the collapse varied wildly, Brian Lee, a University of Wyoming Extension agriculture economist, said the affected area’s economical outlook is much brighter than originally estimated.

“I don’t think the damage to the crops was as bad as it could have been,” Lee explained. “I think a lot of people got water at the end of the season, right when they needed it.”

Based out of the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture and Research Extension Center in Goshen County, Lee co-authored a report estimating a total loss of all the crops irrigated via the tunnel could run about $90 million. The report assumed crop insurance would not cover losses, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency has since decided crop losses would be covered by insurance.

“Rather than a payment per acre, which was previously speculated,” Lee said, “(ag producer’s) insurance will work with them on their losses based on the insurance coverage they had at the beginning of the season.”

While the situation is better than predicted, the area could still suffer.

“There’s going to be a cost with all these tunnel repairs, and some of that will come back on these farmers with increased irrigation costs,” Lee explained. “We’re talking long-term loans that are going to be around for awhile.”

Beginning at the Whalen Diversion Dam near Guernsey, the Goshen and Gering-Fort Laramie irrigation districts’ main canal runs through three tunnels on a 129-mile stretch across Goshen County and Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska.

To prevent future collapses, Posten said the district boards voted to upgrade the tunnels with permeation grouting, which could cost an additional $3.5 million.

Once funding is secured for both the current repairs and future upgrades, the projects could be complete in 2021, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reported.

As the two states work toward preventing future collapses, Lee said ag producers could be considering additional protections.

“I think a lot of people — midway through the season — they didn’t have any water and got to thinking about different ways to get water to their plot or different crops to plant next season,” he said. “In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little more risk mitigation crops going in.”

Center pivots for irrigation — in which water is pumped to sprinklers that move in a large circle — could be another option, Lee said, but the statutes regulating water usage by center pivots are so complex the equipment might not be viable without new legislation.

Irrigation canal repairs nearly complete, Goshen County to turn water back on

in News/Agriculture/Business
1895
Look back at how this water crisis began and see a view of the situation on the ground in Torrington with this report from Cowboy State Daily’s Robert Geha and Mike McCrimmon when the tunnel first collapsed.

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Tunnel crews cleared the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal tunnel Monday, and water could start flowing to crops as early as later this week, Goshen County Irrigation District Manager Rob Posten said.

Full capacity irrigation, however, won’t be restored immediately, he added.

“We’ll go a little at a time until we get there,” Posten said. “It might take another week — it usually takes 7 to 10 days to bring the water into where we want it.”

Irrigation water was cut off to more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Goshen County and Nebraska on July 17 after the Gering-Fort Laramie Canal tunnel collapsed about a mile south of Fort Laramie.

Torrington Mayor Randy Adams said Posten’s announcement was well received around the community.

“Apparently there is no sidewall damage, which would have prohibited running water through it this year,” Adams said. “People in the community who’ve driven around the canal area have said the crops are looking better than expected.”

Prior to the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating Friday that crop losses caused by the canal collapse would be insured, the mayor said the incident could cost the community as much as $250 million during the next few years. Adams said he wasn’t sure how the USDA announcement would affect prior economic predictions, one of which predicted a total loss to crops that could cost Wyoming and Nebraska about $90 million.  

“The USDA is going to have to wait until those farmers harvest and turn in the crop, so they know how much they’ll pay out,” he explained. “I haven’t been a farmer for over 20 years, but crop insurance is basically a means for you to get back on your feet and plant the next crop. It’s better than getting nothing.”

Crop loss

Turning the irrigation back on could reduce overall crop loss, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher said. Xin Qiao, an irrigation management specialist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, produced a report in July detailing the potential crop losses in the area served by the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal. The report predicted 100 percent loss of corn, more than 90 percent loss of dry edible beans and a 50 percent to 60 percent loss of sugar beets if the tunnel was not repaired by Aug. 13.

“I don’t think that number is accurate anymore,” Qiao said. “Any rain they got (since) could reduce the overall impact. It’s the total amount of rainfall that matters and the timing. I don’t have a concrete analysis at this point.”

At his research facility in Nebraska, Qiao said his team turned off irrigation to their own sugar beat plots after the canal collapsed to study the potential effects on the crop. Unfortunately, he said a recent hail storm killed the plots before he could observe the lasting effect on the plants of removing irrigation.

“I definitely think they won’t have that much loss from the original prediction,” he said. “My (new) prediction is it will be less, but I don’t think the numbers will be that far over.”

Legislative support

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Torrington, said the tunnel reopening was great news for everyone involved.

“It’s a testament to the work of the problem solvers on the ground and both of the irrigation boards,” Steinmetz said. “(Locals are) overjoyed to have water flowing back through the canal.”

On the policy side, she said legislators are looking into potential ways for the state to help Goshen County ag producers and Wyoming residents affected by similar disasters in the future.

“The Select Water Committee will be taking up this project through the omnibus water bill,” Steinmetz said. “We’ll be advancing that to a construction phase in the 2020 (Legislative) Session.” 

The omnibus water bill allows legislators to approve and transfer funds from state accounts into priority water projects around Wyoming.“We’re also looking into an emergency account when issues like this arise similar to the fire suppression account,” Steinmetz added.

The emergency fire suppression account bill was adopted by the Legislature this year. It allows unspent, unobligated general fund monies appropriated to the Division of Forestry to revert to a revolving account for emergency fire suppression.

Questions of responsibility

Despite an outpouring of support from Wyoming agencies in response to the tunnel collapse, Steinmetz said there is still a question of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s responsibility in the collapse.

Bureau spokesperson Jay Dallman said the agency constructed the tunnel in 1917 as part of the North Platte Project, then signed over the responsibility for maintenance and use to Goshen Irrigation and Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation districts.

“The agency response (to questions of responsibility) is under that 1926 agreement, the (irrigation) districts are responsible for operation and maintenance,” Dallman said. “However, we’re certainly supportive or our districts, and we’re trying to work with them to figure out solutions to the problem.”

The bureau authorized up to $4 million in loans for temporary repairs to the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal tunnel, he said. While Dallman did not have the exact amount requested by the districts on hand, he said it was about $2 million.

Posten did not have an estimate on the tunnel’s cost of repairs.

Dallman said the loan was on a 50-year term at about 3 percent interest, and the districts would only be responsible for paying back 65 percent of the loan value.

About 100 years ago, the bureau also built the Interstate Canal System, which leads out from Whalen Diversion Dam and serves farmland in Wyoming and Nebraska.

“One could easily conclude this has been an eye opener for all of us,” Dallman said. “We will probably be not only continuing inspections with the (irrigation) districts, but also looking for ways to improve on the technology used in those inspections.”

Crop insurance to cover losses after Goshen County irrigation canal failure

in News/Agriculture
USDA crop insurance approved
1859

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Crews continue repairs on an irrigation tunnel collapse as Goshen County residents prepare for a potential hit to their economy, which could be lessened by crop insurance payouts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a news release its Risk Management Agency concluded the July 17 collapse of the Gering-Fort Laramie Canal tunnel was weather-related and as a result was an insurable cause of loss. 

“The (Risk Management Agency) will reinsure, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement, production and prevented planting losses if the approved insurance providers pay the full amount of the claims to producers in accordance with the provisions of their 2019 crop policies,” the news release states.

The news release said the area received up to twice its normal rainfall in the 30 days leading up to the collapse.

Prior to the announcement, Torrington’s economic forecast looked dire.

“We’re used to tightening our belts — the people are resilient,” Adams said. “We’re hopeful, and we’re going to get through it.”

The mayor’s comments come on the heels of an economic analysis report produced jointly by the Nebraska Extension and University of Wyoming Extension. Created prior to the USDA’s decision, the report assumes a total loss of crops, no insurance payout and estimates the collapsed Gering-Fort Laramie Canal could cost both states about $90 million combined.

Economic analysis report co-author Brian Lee said Goshen’s share of the loss could be about $24.5 million with another $1 million in spillover losses between Goshen County and Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska.

“The model assumes a total loss if you were going to take corn all the way to grain,” Lee explained. 

Alternatively, some Goshen corn farmers, who mostly grow to feed livestock, could chop the corn early for silage, reducing losses, he said.

Alfalfa and corn raised for grain make up more than 60,000 acres of the more than 107,000 acres in the affected area. Whereas corn on the Nebraska side accounts for about 24,000 acres and alfalfa accounts for about 11,000, in Goshen County, the two are flipped with alfalfa consisting of about 25,000 acres and corn accounting for about 12,000 acres, the report states. Goshen County’s next largest crop in the affected area is “other hay” at about 8,000 acres, followed by edible beans at more than 4,000 acres.

Much of the farming data for 2019 is not yet available, so Lee said the team working on the report made several assumptions.

“The biggest challenge was tracking down what data we thought were correct,” Lee said. “We had to go back to previous years and assume previous cropping patterns were similar to what was planted this year.”

Because of fluctuating market prices, cropping patterns can vary year to year.

“Most of the crops grown in Goshen county along that canal are grown for use on the farm,” Lee said. “We were comfortable making the assumption that the cropping wouldn’t be very different from previous years.”

Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, however, has more non-feed crops, like dry beans and sugar beets. 

“Sugar beets are often on contract, so roughly, the same amount of acreage is going to be grown (each year) to meet those contract shares,” Lee explained. “We also assumed dry bean producers would have the same equipment this year and produce dry beans again.” 

Adams said the impact could be far greater than $90 million during the next few years.

“We know that revenue turns over about 7 times in a community … so it could be about $250 million spendable revenue in the county,” he said. “Down the road in two to three years, we’re going to have a sales tax impact in Torrington and all the little municipalities in Goshen County.”

It’s been a rough year for Torrington, Adams added. Western Sugar Co-op closed in March, removing about 90 part-time positions and 200 full-time jobs, he said. 

“The area’s main retail store, Shopko, closed a few months ago,” Adams said. “This community has taken some hits.”

The latest being the irrigation canal, which collapsed July 17 about one mile south of Fort Laramie. The canal facilitates the irrigation of about 52,000 acres of farmland in Wyoming and another 55,000 acres in Nebraska. Without water, nearly all the crops could be lost, according to a report by the University of Nebraska Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center.

Laying out the potential weekly impact of lost irrigation, the report lists corn as a 100 percent loss, dry edible beans as a greater than 90 percent loss and sugar beets as a 50-60 percent loss after Aug. 13, the last predicted date provided.

Rainfall, however, could reduce the losses, the report states.

In Cheyenne, National Weather Service Meteorologist Rob Cox said the agency recorded 2.2 inches of rainfall during July in Goshen County, which is about one-half inch above normal. But August’s current rainfall is less than one-half inch, about one-half inch below normal, he said.At the canal breach, Goshen Irrigation District Manager Rob Posten said the tunnel crew was making progress.

“They are past the first cave-in, which was the small one,” Posten said. “They are into the second cave-in now, and I’ve not heard of any other cave-ins, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Excavation crews above the tunnel are nearly complete, but he said he does not have a timeline for potentially reopening the canal.

“I’m still hoping for this season,” Posten said. “But there’s so many unknowns in tunnels that it’s nearly impossible, I’m learning, to predict completion.”

Crews working 7 days a week to repair irrigation canal

in News/Agriculture
Fort Laramie-Gering irrigation canal
Crews work to repair the collapsed tunnel on the Fort Laramie-Gering irrigation canal. The tunnel’s collapse in July shut off irrigation water to 100,000 acres of land in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. Officials hope to have water running in the canal within two to three weeks. (Photo courtesy of the Goshen Irrigation District)
1783

 By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Out-of-state contractors are racing to complete repairs on a collapsed irrigation tunnel in Goshen County as governmental agencies analyze the best ways to help affected farmers.

“We’re up there seven days a week trying to get it done as quick as we can,” Goshen Irrigation District Manager Rob Posten said. “The farmers want water yesterday, and we want to give it to them.”

The problems started July 17 when an irrigation tunnel collapsed in Goshen County, cutting irrigation water off from more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Wyoming and Nebraska at the height of the hot and dry season.

Both Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed declarations of emergency in response to the collapse.

“Our office is continuing to analyze ways to assist and that might include some potential low-interest loan programs and looking at funding sources that might be available to the irrigation district,” said Michael Pearlman, Gordon’s communications director.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming Department of Homeland Security and Wyoming Army National Guard also visited the site of the collapse to determine possible ways Wyoming could provide aid, Pearlman added.

Built by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1917 as a part of the North Platte Project, the tunnel is 14 feet in diameter and 2,200 feet long and is located about a mile south of Fort Laramie.

Farm Services of America Insurance Officer Vanessa Reishus said the cause of the collapse has not been determined and doing so could be a drawn out process.

“I’m sure the risk management agency is waiting for the engineers to give them a cause for collapse,” Reishus said. “Generally, these things take a really long time.”

If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decides the cause was anything other natural, crop insurance won’t cover the farmers’ losses.

At the canal, about 40 workers from the irrigation district and construction crews from St. Louis, Missouri, and Nebraska are trying to repair the canal as quickly as possible, Posten said.  

“I talk to the tunnel guys every day,” he said. “As the ditch crew removes dirt from the top of the tunnel, the tunnel crew is setting steel brace ribs and sealing the breach.”

Recent rains likely helped farmers weather the disaster, but slowed progress on repairs.

“The tunnel crew probably spent half a day pumping water out of there after the big rain storm,” Posten explained. “It didn’t hinder them too much. We’ll take rain every day if we can get it.”

Estimating when the tunnel will be operational again is difficult, but Posten said he’s pushing to get water back to the crops in less than a month.

“I’d like to have water running in 2-3 weeks,” he said. “That’s the goal.”

Construction crews race the clock to fix canal

in Economic development/News/Community/Agriculture
1746

Farmers and ranchers in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska are facing nature’s deadline as construction crews work to repair an irrigation breach that left 800 irrigators without water.

Construction crews are working full-time to repair the breach in the Fort Laramie-Gering irrigation canal that provides water for 100,000 acres of land on both sides of the Wyoming-Nebraska border.

Water to the canal has been turned off since the collapse occurred on July 17 and the late summer heat makes it crucial for water to be delivered to fields served the 130-mile canal as quickly as possible to avoid crop losses.

Rob Posten, district manager of the Goshen Irrigation District, said the district hopes to have the canal repaired by late August.

If the repairs take much longer, farmers and ranchers could be looking at significant crop losses, which Shawn Madden of Torrington Livestock said would affect the economy throughout the area.

“It’s not just if you’re farming south of Torrington or down by Gering, Nebraska,” he said. “Those people are all customers on Main Street in Scottsbluff (Nebraska), Torrington. I mean, these people are in financial peril.”

Cactus Covello of Points West Bank said most agricultural operations run on a slim profit margin to begin with.

“There’s not much profit in the corn, there’s not a lot of profit in cattle,” he said. “Most of that goes back to pay for their input costs, to make land payments, to put a little food on the table and hopefully have some to put in savings for a rainy day. The agricultural life is a lifestyle you’ve got to love, because it’s not ultra-profitable.”

Questions remain over whether the crop losses will be covered by insurance. If the tunnel failure was the result of natural causes such as rain, officials believe the losses will be covered. If the collapse was the result of structural failure, the coverage will not apply. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to determine what caused the collapse of the 102-year-old tunnel.

Covello said he expects members of the community to work together to overcome the problems.

“These banks around here, we serve the agricultural community,” he said. “We will change and do things that we need to do so we can all survive together.”

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Parched: 102-year-old irrigation canal collapse threatens livelihood of 800 farm and ranch families

in News/weather/Agriculture
1741

Over 100,000 acres of farm and ranch land in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska have been without irrigation water for more than two weeks after an 102-year-old irrigation canal collapsed.

For the roughly 800 farm and ranch families whose operations straddle the Wyoming-Nebraska state line, the situation is dire and the clock is ticking.

“It was the worst timing in the world,” Goshen County Irrigation District manager Rob Posten said. “17th of July when it’s 90 degrees everyday and not much rain. Couldn’t have been any worse timing.”

“It’s my worst nightmare,” Posten added.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts have both signed emergency declarations allowing the use of state resources to get the old canal repaired and running water.

“I have been in crop insurance for 20 years, and I have never seen anything like this.”

CSD: Crop insurance might not cover irrigation canal collapse losses (July 29, 2019)

The massive canal, constructed during World War I, runs 85 miles through Wyoming and another 45 miles in Nebraska.

“If there was a hundred year warranty it ran out last year,” said Shawn Madden with Torrington Livestock Auction.

There is hope to salvage at least part of the year’s crop yield as Wyoming meteorologist Don Day predicts some rain may be on the way for eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. The bad news, Day warns, is that late August in Wyoming tends to be bone dry.

For the livelihood of 800 families, the window to get the canal operational is small and getting smaller.

However, Cactus Covello of Points West Bank said the farming families of the region will find a way through the crisis.

“Agricultural people in Nebraska and Wyoming, they’re the most resilient you’re going to come by,” he said. “They’re tough. They’ll find a way. We may lose some, but you won’t lose many. They’ll find a way to survive.”

Irrigation tunnel collapse could cost Wyoming’s ag millions, repairs underway

in News/Agriculture
Tunnel collapse Torrington
1703

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

More than 100,000 acres of agricultural land are without irrigation after a canal tunnel collapsed July 17 in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.

“The tunnel collapse shut the water off in one of our canals,” Goshen Irrigation District Manager Rob Posten said. “Right now, about 400 landowners are affected just in Goshen County.”

Approximately 52,000 acres of the affected area are in Goshen County and the rest is across the state line in Nebraska, Posten said.

John Ellis, a Goshen County commissioner, said if unchecked, the collapse could have a disastrous impact on the entire county.

“I’ve never seen a disaster close to this scale,” Ellis said. “Agriculture is Goshen County. There’s very little other businesses, and they all rely on agriculture.”

On Monday, Gov. Mark Gordon signed an emergency declaration to allow the use of state resources to help fix the collapse.

“This is a serious emergency, and we recognize addressing an issue of this magnitude will take coordination, especially because it affects so many Wyoming and Nebraska farmers,” Gordon said in a news release. “We are working with an understanding of the urgency of the situation, along with a need to proceed carefully. Wyoming is united in its effort to find the right way to help the Goshen Irrigation District get up and running.”

Created in 1926, the irrigation district was formed to contract with the federal government for water from the North Platte River. The district pays the U.S. a proportionate share of the estimated cost to operate and maintain the facilities that store the water for use, including the Pathfinder Dam and Reservoir and Guernsey Dam and Reservoir, according to the district’s website.

“We supply water to the farmers,” Posten said. “We only have two canal tunnels, and they’ve both been there 100 years. The one that collapsed was built in 1917.”

He said the collapse was not maintenance related.

The district has not yet received state resources to repair the collapse and Posten said it’s still too early to speculate what those resources might be.The repairs, however, are already underway.

“We have people that know how to fix this working on it as we speak — professionals from St. Louis, Missouri,” he said. “I don’t know the full scope of the work needed, but they will likely pump grout in around the tunnel, fill in the voids and install steel ribs to shore it up, and then try to run water through it.”

If the water is not turned back on soon, Ellis said the cost could be through the roof. Although he was not aware of an official estimate of potential damages, Ellis said he’s heard guesses between $90 million and $250 million.

From a policy making standpoint, he said the collapse would likely affect the county’s future, but determining how is a waiting game.

“We don’t know the total impact,” Ellis said. “Until we know the financial impact, it’s hard to tell what we may have to do.”

Whatever the case, Ellis said he’s proud of the way the irrigation district is handling the situation.

“The Goshen Irrigation District have done such an excellent job,” Ellis said. “They’ve left no stone unturned. They’ve done everything possible to get this thing working again.”

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