By Nancy McGill
A new river gauge will be installed where the Little Blue River and Highway 5 meet to give Hebron more accurate and earlier warnings in flood weather.
The $13,500 price tag for the gauge was split between the United States Geological Survey, the Little Blue Natural Resources District and the third split was divided among the City of Hebron, Thayer County and Jefferson County.
The USGS is contributing a little more than a third and NRD, a little less. That leaves a $2,220 between the local entities for 2017 until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The NRD will act as the fiscal manager for the gauge.
After Sept. 30, the three local entities will again be responsible for the cost, which will be $4,890 until Sept. 30, 2018.
In order to split a third of the cost, each entity wanted to ensure the other entities were willing to contibute.
Participation could also come from the City of Fairbury and Union Pacific railroad.
Thayer County Emergency Manager Bill McPherson said the gauge will give the National Weather Service an opportunity to issue a flash flood warning quicker than if the NWS was monitoring the next point up the river for flooding in DeWeese.
“It will give people notice to move things away from the river,” McPherson said.
But, the main purpose of the gauge is for evacuations, however, a physical eye will still be needed.
McPherson said in the past, the county sheriff’s office has been instrumental in monitoring the river from the bridge.
“Deputies, the fire department, or whoever we could get,” McPherson said about checking the river for possible flooding.
Hebron Mayor Shane Day said the sheriff’s department has watched to see if the water crosses Highway 5. McPherson approached the city about the gauge at its April meeting.
“After May of 2015 — I’ve worked in public safety most of my life — I was sure I wasn’t going to see that again, but we did April 26, 2016,” McPherson told the council.
He said the gauge will eliminate the need for overnight checks for flooding because the USGS will send someone to check. The Survey periodically monitors for storms.
Deshler is currently working on a flooding project of its own for the Snake and Spring creeks.
McPherson said Deshler’s problem is somewhat different than Hebron’s because the Snake Creek that merges with Spring Creek is typically dry when it isn’t flooding.
“We get 12 to 15 inches of rain and the Snake Creek basin fills up, rolls in, causes chaos and leaves,” he said. “We are still in the same spot as years past.”
Total cost for the next fiscal year will be $15,040.