FORT LARAMIE – Farmers along the Fort Laramie-Gering Irrigation Canal are looking to the skies for rain, to the heavens for answers and to a team of engineers and heavy equipment operators to figure out a way to get the canal flowing as their crops are going on three weeks without irrigation after a tunnel along the canal collapsed on July 17, which has caused the canal to go dry.

Another place they’re looking for relief might be their crop insurance providers, but according to a press release issued by the University of Nebraska economist Cory Walters and extension educator Jessica Groskopf, there’s going to be a lot of red tape, investigation and general figuring before its determined if the tunnel collapse is covered by crop insurance.

At this point, the release said, it’s simply an unknown. “Crop Insurance provides protection against “unavoidable, naturally occurring events,” the release said. “Due to the complexity of the Goshen/ Gering-Fort Laramie situation, it is unknown if crop insurance will cover crop loss.”

According to the release, crop insurance is actually a federal program operated by the United States Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency. Regardless of the crop insurance agent, the “unavoidable, naturally occurring events” clause is in every policy.

“All crop insurance policies, regardless of the crop insurance agent, are subject to the same provisions,” the release said . “Thus if it is determined that the tunnel collapse was not from an unavoidable, naturally occurring event, all crop insurance policy holders on the Goshen/Gering-Fort Laramie Canal would not receive an indemnity payment for their crop loss.”

To date, the exact cause of the tunnel collapse is undetermined, and it’s likely that several factors could be to blame. During a stakeholders meeting in Scottsbluff Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation District Supervisor Rick Preston said engineers are speculating that there isn’t just one reason why the collapse occurred.

“I could give you a real quick synopsis of what the engineers speculate could have happened,” Preston said. “This tunnel was built in 1917. In order for our forefathers to do this, they had to put wood shoring through this hill to prep it and pour the cast-in-place concrete.

“After they were finished with that, the shoring remained. After the last 200 years, as you well know, that material does deteriorate and go back to powder, or whatever it may be. Also, mother nature gave the g round a drink of water.

“In their speculation, they’re thinking the cause was the timber rotting and the water that worked its way into these areas into the last 100 years of so, it created a void. The void finally became big enough that the upper soils could no longer carry themselves.”


By Tom Milstead

Torrington Telegram Via Wyoming News Exchange