AUBURN – The scene was different for Peru residents Tuesday on the topic of flooding. Instead of sandbagging and drinking water arriving on trucks, residents were cutting a ribbon for a new, 11-mile water line from Auburn to its neighbor along the Missouri River.

Peru Mayor Dave Pease said the ribbon cutting was a long time in coming as he looked back on March of 2019 when the river surged over sandbags around the city’s well.

Pease: “Initially we were concerned about people’s safety. We had a flooded area of town. OPPD had to come down and shut off the power there and we’re sitting there thinking what are we going to do for water now. President Hansen was there (former Peru State President Dan Hanson) and he right away decided to shut down the college and send the students home. We had, I think there were seven people we had to contact who lived in the flooded area.”

 

Over 900,000 gallons of water were trucked from a fire hydrant in Auburn to Peru, with trucks running as much as 14 hours a day before the City of Peru reached out to Auburn about a permanent solution. FEMA provided a $5.2 million grant and the state provided additional funds and a zero-interest loan to Peru for its $384,000 share of the new water line.

Chuck Knipe of the Auburn Board of Public Works said the rural communities showed resilience to natural disaster.

Knipe: “You learn you have to work together if you live in a small community. Our resources aren’t what they are in the major metropolitan areas, but we can get buy. We have a great lifestyle in these communities. We can get by if we share these resources.”

 

A booster station in Auburn provides the 400 foot lift needed to go under the Little Nemaha River and rise to the Peru water tower. The water line can deliver Peru’s normal daily demand of 100 gallons per minute, but could provide up to 250 gallons per minute in case of a fire or other emergency.

Mayor Pease says flood recovery continues in Peru.

Pease: “We have a lot of other clean-up issues. We’re nearly done but we have a few roads that were in the flood zone that we couldn’t get to because we had built the berms up to the old treatment plant and our well still has berm built up around it. Those will all have to be removed.”

The city is also making offers to buy out houses that were destroyed in the flood and turn the lots into green space.