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Support cities' bid for flood protection

Permanent flood control isn't a foolproof solution.

But it sure helps. And you don't have to visit the Netherlands -- 60 percent of which would be underwater if it weren't for dikes and other flood works -- to know it.

Grand Forks and East Grand Forks have proven that point over and over again in recent years. This year, they're doing so again; and when the flood-season passes, North Dakota lawmakers should commit to helping other flood-prone cities build the kind of earthen security blanket Grand Forks enjoys.

Devils Lake is one such place.

Devils Lake -- the lake -- is on its way up again, and Devils Lake -- the city -- is doing its best to be prepared.

The rise looks containable for now. "With the lake levels they're forecasting for this year, we're OK," said Bonnie Greenleaf, Devils Lake project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, to The Associated Press.

"But the thing we have to factor in is we think it will take two to three years to build (the dike) up."

Along those lines, the corps is studying whether to raise the dikes protecting the city, starting with a 1½-mile section in the Creel Bay area. The dike there potentially could be topped by wind-driven waves, according to The AP.

Gov. John Hoeven hopes to tap the State Water Commission budget for $10 million to help pay for the work. That would pay for about half of the project; the city of Devils Lake might be able to pay for the rest.

The next phase of the project, would raise the entire 8-mile dike at a cost of between $70 million and $100 million. The dike raising "would provide protection to a lake level of 1,459 feet," The AP reports.

"At that level, the lake would naturally drain through a coulee into the Sheyenne River." That event would generate a whole new set of issues, which North Dakota also should be studying and starting to address. But the first order of business is to protect the city that's most at risk from a steady lake rise -- namely, Devils Lake.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate should support Hoeven's plan, as well as other well-designed flood protection plans for Devils Lake, Fargo and other communities.

The reason is clear, as a visit to Grand Forks this week would make clear at a glance:

Flood protection works. Again, it's not perfect; but the massive dikes now protecting Grand Forks and East Grand Forks have brought an exceptional, but still realistic, sense of security to the community.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., noticed the difference Saturday when he attended flood-fighting summits in Fargo and Grand Forks.

"The entirely different levels of anxiety" in the two communities was striking, Pomeroy told The AP.

"It's clear that permanent flood protection makes all the difference."

He's right. It does. And state leaders now should strive to protect other North Dakota cities to a comparable degree.

-- Tom Dennis for the Grand Forks Herald