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Published November 03 2010

Forum editorial: Can’t fight high water every year

The home buyouts in the flood-prone Heritage Hills neighborhood of Oxbow, N.D., are the latest in the ongoing saga of capitulating to the fickle Red River and its tributaries. Maybe “capitulating” is an incomplete characterization. Most homeowners put up the good fight, but they really could not win against the increasing frequency and intensity of river floods. So saying goodbye to home and neighborhood has been more an inevitability than giving up a fight. When it seems the water is always high, the common-sense option is to get out of the way.

Heritage Hills is not alone. The river has taken neighborhoods as far-flung as the Oak Grove area of north Fargo to subdivisions on South University Drive. Riverside neighborhoods in Moorhead have been thinned because of flooding. Buyout programs in Fargo and Cass County continue as local governments move property out of harm’s way as part of a comprehensive effort to build permanent flood protection. That strategy includes levees, holding basins, drainage channels and a flood plain made wider by removal of homes and other properties.

The greater good, of course, is permanent flood protection for cities and the county. But abandoning one’s home – in some cases a dream home on the beautiful river – is personal. The sense of loss, the depth of sadness and the trauma of a move forced by the very river that brought a homeowner to the site cannot be dismissed. What is understood intellectually still hurts emotionally.

In time, the buyout program will prove to be one of the better investments in flood protection. But that does not ease the pain for people losing their homes.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.