Barrasso: Wyoming is Facing Serious Aging Water Infrastructure Needs

May 25, 2022

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered remarks at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Water and Power to receive testimony on pending water legislation. 

The hearing featured testimony from the Honorable Camille Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation at the Department of the Interior. 

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Thanks so much Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank Commissioner Touton for testifying today. 

“Thank you very much for being here, welcome. 

“As you know, aging Bureau of Reclamation infrastructure is a major issue in western states, especially in Wyoming. 

“We’ve discussed the 2019 Irrigation Tunnel #2 on the Fort Laramie Canal that collapsed. 

“It left more than 100,000 acres of cropland not just in Wyoming, but Nebraska without water. 

“This seriously impacted farmers and ranchers in both states.

“After the collapse, they inspected Tunnel #1 which is part of that same canal system. 

“It also revealed major structural deficiencies. 

“New tunnels through the existing infrastructure 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. 

“According to Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s office, the project could cost upwards of $60 million dollars. 

“The Western Water Infrastructure Title of the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law does not cover this project. 

“This is simply because it happened three years ago. 

“The law is currently written to only cover projects over the past two years – it doesn’t mean the needs aren’t there. 

“This is an important example of why I believe the new infrastructure law will need to be improved. 

“That is why I introduced S. 4233, the Platte River Basin Critical Maintenance and Repair Act. 

“Wyoming is facing serious aging water infrastructure needs.

“So I’m happy that you’re writing this down, and that’s the kind of attention you pay to these things.

“I’m grateful, and on our phone calls as well so thank you. 

“It comes as no surprise that my legislation has the support of Wyoming’s governor. 

“He had the following to say about this bill. He said, ‘I can think of no wiser use of Infrastructure Investment and 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.’ 

“Whether it is the Goshen Irrigation District tunnels, or replacement of dams that are really close to failure like another one in Converse County, Wyoming. 

“Wyoming has many important water infrastructure needs. 

“Wyoming, and other western states, want to see improvements to the new infrastructure law. 

“They are also eagerly awaiting implementation of its existing water infrastructure provisions. 

“As you know, time is not on our side with regard to aging infrastructure.

“Another critical failure of an aging project could occur at any time. 

“That is why we need to move legislation to improve the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to allow projects that suffered a recent critical failure to get access to this vital funding. 

“We also need the Bureau of Reclamation to expeditiously implement western water infrastructure provisions of the new infrastructure law.

“Implementing these provisions will allow funding to be released for farming and ranching communities in the West that really need it. 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.”