TORRINGTON, Wyo. — Growers in the Goshen Irrigation District had the opportunity Wednesday to ask questions and express concerns about the district’s plan to apply for a $4 million loan to help with costs associated with the collapse of a tunnel in the canal system.
The public meeting was a final step prior to GID’s requested $4 million Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund from the Office of State Land and Investments. The loan would come at 2.5% interest on a 30-year term with a $3 million principal forgiveness component for expenses and emergency repairs to the irrigation system, specifically, the tunnel that collapsed.
According to the public meeting notice, the district’s plan is to fund the loan through landowner assessment with a $5 increase per acre for the 2019-20 fiscal year and beyond. Any funds received through the loan program will have to be used to pay for expenses associated with the temporary fix of the second of three tunnels along the Goshen/Gering-Fort Laramie canal.
There has not been a determination as yet for a permanent fix for the tunnel or for needed upgrades to the other two tunnels along the canal route. GID and GFL districts have joint responsibility for the first two tunnels, located in Wyoming. Gering-Fort Laramie has sole responsibility for the third tunnel, located in Nebraska. The district boards will jointly be making determinations in the coming weeks regarding proposals for permanent fixes.
To date, the receipts turned in total $2.87 million for a temporary fix that took nearly six weeks to get irrigation water returned to the canal system, according to Shawn Booth, GID secretary/treasurer.
The two districts had borrowed $4 million from the Bureau of Reclamation for the temporary repairs to get the system back up and running. With the $4 million GID will be requesting, the plan is to pay back the district’s portion of that loan and any other costs associated with the first fix, including the funds already accounted for as well as bills still coming in and costs associated with restoration of land that was washed away when the canal breached its banks.
Lands that were dug up in an effort to get to the tunnel for repairs are also slated to be restored. Any funds that are not used toward the temporary fix and the restoration will be returned to the state.
In addition, GID board president Robert Coxbill said the Bureau of Reclamation loan is 35% forgivable, so there has been significant help from government agencies to help with the costs associated with the collapse. Coxbill said the program almost sounds too good to be true, but he’s thankful that it’s been made available, and that the district will have its obligations related to the temporary fix paid once the loan funds are received.
Booth said it was simple economics that resulted in efforts to get the temporary fix done as quickly as possible. The $3 million spent on the fix resulted in tens of millions in revenue for the growers.
“It wouldn’t have done much good in the middle of September to finally get the water back in there,” he said. “It still made a lot of difference by the end of August. It made a lot of difference on a lot of farms.”
Grower Randy Kieser told the board he was thankful for the work it has done.
“I think the board has done a good job of exploring and doing a lot of work, and I appreciate that as a grower,” he said. “If we keep common sense in our thinking, we’re going to come out a long ways ahead.”
Grower Jim Yates said the situation has been a learning process for all involved, including the board.
“In the heat of battle, we all wanted to fix it yesterday,” Yates said. “I think everybody in Goshen County learned some real valuable lessons, including you guys (the board). I can see, most of you guys have aged just about five years in the last three months.”