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Published October 06 2012

Forum editorial: Diversion ring dikes could help

The idea of building ring dikes to protect communities upstream from the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project is not new. Local diversion proponents were talking about the ring-dike option as soon as the diversion plan incorporated water staging areas near and around vulnerable upstream communities. It made sense.

What is new is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which previously had not been clear about ring dikes, said last week that it can accept the idea of ring dikes to protect Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke as components of the overall project. The change is significant in that it can be a reasonable alternative to home buyouts and the complete loss of the three communities. As it stands now, property owners are in an infuriating limbo, which has eroded property values and clouded the future.

The ring-dike option can’t protect every acre of land in the staging areas. As anyone who has any sense at all knows, a project of the size and impact of the diversion will have negative effects on some people. That’s a given for any major public works project.

It is also true that local proponents of the diversion and the corps have been more than willing to find ways to minimize impacts, even if hardened opponents don’t believe it or won’t concede it. Again, that is no surprise in a project of the diversion’s magnitude.

Ring dikes around the three at-risk communities won’t be small. Estimates put the structures as large as 12 feet high. But one of the selling points of the dikes is their cost likely would be less than total buyouts of properties in the three communities. If done right, ring dikes could be a good deal for Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke, and save the taxpayers a few dollars. Landscaped, grassed and carefully maintained, the dikes could even be community amenities.

That being said, no reasonable or pragmatic modifications to the diversion project will satisfy some opponents. They are against it, no matter what. They will spin any attempt to accommodate their concerns as not enough, not the right option or an outright lie by “those people in Fargo.” Sensible compromises are impossible when confronting such attitudes.

Ring dikes, which now apparently have the OK of the corps, make a lot of sense. If the people of the affected communities are serious about flood protection and preserving their homes, they should work with the Diversion Authority to incorporate ring dikes into the project.

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