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Congressman Adrian Smith

Representing the 3rd District of Nebraska

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Nebraska’s Infrastructure

August 16, 2019
Column

When I have the opportunity to travel around the 67,000 square miles of the Third District, I spend a lot of time in the car driving the many highways and byways of Nebraska. I enjoy this time on the road, taking in the diverse scenery as I map my way from town to town.   

Nebraska is home to vast infrastructure. More than just roads, infrastructure includes bridges, railroads, ports, irrigation, and telecommunications. From the transportation of agriculture commodities across highways, rail, and rivers to the movement of energy through the grid, infrastructure is the backbone of our Nebraska economy.

Recently, I attended two separate meetings which both impact Nebraska’s infrastructure. The first of these meetings was with the Gering-Ft Laramie Irrigation District. On July 17, an irrigation tunnel collapsed in Wyoming affecting more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Western Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming. Since the collapse, my staff and I have engaged with local, state, and federal officials working to help resolve this crisis. There is a strong sense of urgency to fix this crisis by those on the ground, and I will continue to assist in any way possible.

This incident highlights the need for more attention to irrigation in our country. While the consequences of incidents such as this clearly impact farmers and ranchers, they also raise strong concerns for small businesses and the broader western Nebraska community. It is especially important in Nebraska, which has more irrigated acres than any other state in the nation. I am thankful for the incredibly hard work local and state officials have done to bring back water as quickly as possible, and for the patience of all of those that have been impacted.

While I am glad restoration is on the way, the issue is still not resolved. We want to make sure the affected districts can access available resources. In particular, we must ensure the districts can access funding for making a long-term repair once the growing season has ended, and relief for producers facing potential crop loss. As of now, we do not have a specific date which these issues will be solved, however it is widely understood we need to fix this as soon as possible. We also must look at the cause of the collapse, so we can ensure this does not happen again.

I was also able to attend the Heartland Expressway Annual Meeting last week in Kimball. The Heartland Expressway is a federally designated High Priority Corridor project connecting Rapid City, South Dakota and Denver, Colorado, through Nebraska’s panhandle. Along with the Ports-to-Plains Corridor to the south and Theodore Roosevelt Expressway to the north, this highway system will connect Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming directly with Mexico and Canada. It allows for our state’s products to arrive at market even more quickly and efficiently. This project is exciting news for Nebraska, as a direct avenue to our closest trading partners benefits consumers, farmers, ranchers, families, and small businesses, and is one many reasons for this project’s importance.

While infrastructure may not always be at the front of everyone’s minds, it is vital to every American, every day. I appreciate President Trump’s commitment to revitalizing America’s aging infrastructure, and look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to address the specific and unique needs of Nebraska.