FORT LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming’s governor has declared a state of emergency while local irrigation managers in Wyoming and Nebraska look for ways to fix to an irrigation system failure that has affected a wide swath of cropland at the peak of growing season.
Monday’s declaration will enable Wyoming to deploy workers and equipment to try to solve the problem that has left over 150 square miles (400 square kilometers) of cropland without irrigation water at the peak of summer, according to Gov. Mark Gordon’s office.
“This is a serious emergency, and we recognize addressing an issue of this magnitude will take coordination,” Gordon said in a release. “We are working with an understanding of the urgency of the situation, along with a need to proceed carefully.”
A quick solution might be elusive. Officials estimated repairs would take two to four weeks.
The problem began when a 14-foot-wide (4-meter-wide) tunnel for irrigation water collapsed July 17. The tunnel is 100 feet (30 meters) underground in places.
The backed-up water washed out an irrigation canal, flooding nearby farmland.
The Casper Star-Tribune reports about half of the farmland now without irrigation water is in Wyoming and the other half is in Nebraska. Crops grown in the region include corn, sugar beets and hay for livestock.
“Everybody wants to make this go away,” said Jay Dallman with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “But engineering solutions to this aren’t simple.”