The concrete liner portion of the canal, built in 1938, was leaking 45 cubic feet of water per second through a crack in the 4-inch thick concrete liner near the Shoshone River just west of Cody. Ditch rider Jimmy Roberson noticed the leak early Monday morning and repair crews had heavy equipment on the scene before noon.
“Our most important goal is to get back and running as fast as we can,” said Randy Watts, manager of the district, adding that, “We want to be in and out of here in three to four days.”
The leak happened at a bad time for some crops — especially alfalfa and beets — as the temperatures are above normal and there’s been a long period without rain.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Watts said.
When the patch is completed, it will take a while to get the water back up to normal levels, according to Watts.
If storms do come in the next few days, it might help the crops, but it would also slow work on the temporary patch to the liner. There is a chance of thunderstorms forecast for Wednesday, followed by a chance of rain through Saturday.
The team is hoping to patch the leak well enough to get them by for the next year or two. The district votes today (Tuesday) on the final wording for a funding request to the Wyoming Water Development Commission to replace the 1,980-foot liner. But unless the commission and the state Legislature can push funding through faster than normal, the replacement of the liner will have to wait until the fall of 2019 before contractors can start work.
The liner can only be replaced during the winter months — after irrigation seasons. If the funding for the project flows through the normal channels, the work can’t begin until after the harvest of 2019. If everything, including funding, falls into place as expected, the project is scheduled to be complete in late 2020.
Until then, the district is forced to hope emergency patches hold. The last breach in the liner, in 2015, happened less than 100 yards from the current leak.