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March Mania

OUR OPINION: Generous compensation for affected residents

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When conflicts arise over civic infrastructure in the United States, a resolution process is in place. It starts with public hearings, continues through evaluation by local, state and federal agencies and winds up with eminent domain proceedings and construction taking place.

That's the process that built the interstate highways and the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks flood-protection system, among countless other projects.

It's also the process that has yielded the Fargo-Moorhead diversion proposal. And it's one that most North Dakotans and Minnesotans support.

On balance, they're right to do so. With 216,000 people, the Fargo-Moorhead complex is the biggest metro area by far in the region. Quite frankly, it needs flood protection -- and the system that has been vetted by the Army Corps and approved by the White House and both chambers of Congress is the most realistic and cost-effective option available.

That said, diversion supporters should make no mistake: The parallel with the Grand Cities' dike system only goes so far. That's because few people were displaced and even fewer neighboring towns were impacted by the dike construction here.

That's not true in the Fargo-Moorhead proposal, which calls for ring dikes around some bedroom communities and the diversion of floodwater from land that Fargo hopes to develop to a vast "storage area" further south.

Real towns, real families and real farms will be affected by these developments. Actually, "affected" isn't the right word. These friends and neighbors will be hurt -- many financially, many emotionally by having to pull up roots, say goodbye to lifetime friends and move.

If the project goes through, then the emotional hurt will be unavoidable. But the financial pain is one that governments can and must ease. As a condition of lending their support to the Fargo-Moorhead diversion, residents of the northern valley should insist on generous compensation for those who'll lose their homes or any use of their land.

That's the way each of us would hope to be treated if we were in that situation. It's the treatment we should demand for those in the path of the diversion, too.