Barrasso Introduces Bill to Improve Irrigation Projects in the Platte River Basin

May 18, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), introduced S. 4233, the Platte River Basin Critical Maintenance and Repair Act. This legislation would provide access to funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for aging irrigation projects that have suffered a critical structural collapse within the last three years and are located in the Platte River Basin of Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado.

“Water infrastructure is essential to ranchers and farmers’ livelihoods. It allows them access to clean, reliable supplies of water,” said Barrasso. “My legislation will provide access to the funding needed to build new tunnels and fix aging irrigation systems in Goshen County. It will help prevent catastrophic collapses like the one in Fort Laramie from happening again.” 

“Our nation’s century-old irrigation infrastructure is becoming increasingly fragile. For years I have been advocating for adequate funding for critical maintenance and repair needs. Promptly and properly addressing this issue is crucial to mitigating the risk to health and human safety. I can think of no wiser use of Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act funds than to direct additional funding to Bureau of Reclamation reserved or transferred works that have had a structural failure, like the Goshen Irrigation District tunnel collapse that occurred in Wyoming. That’s what this bill seeks to do, and I appreciate the Senator’s diligent work on these efforts,” said Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon

Read the text of the Platte River Basin Critical Maintenance and Repair Act here

Background Information: 

In 2019, Irrigation Tunnel #2 on the Fort Laramie Canal collapsed leaving more than 100,000 acres of cropland in Wyoming and Nebraska without water. After the collapse, inspections on Tunnel # 1 on the same canal also revealed major structural deficiencies. New tunnels through the existing tunnel alignments are necessary to reinstate full operation for the Goshen Irrigation District in Wyoming and the Gering Fort Laramie Irrigation District in Nebraska. The two irrigation districts need funding for the construction of both tunnel replacements. This project could cost upwards of $60 million dollars. The Platte River Basin Critical Maintenance and Repair Act would provide access to appropriations in the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (under Title IX, Section 9004), as well as authorize an additional $100 million in funding for qualifying projects like the canals that serve the Goshen Irrigation District and the Gering Fort Laramie Irrigation District.