EAST GRAND FORKS (AP) -- JoAnne Whicker knew the new dike behind her home was going to be big. She didn't realize just how big.
"The sun comes up at 6 a.m., but I can't see it until noon," she said, exaggerating to make a point.
The dike, designed to hold back the Red Lake River, stands about 12 feet high behind her home in East Grand Forks. It's not only high, it's close -- 30 feet from her garage and 60 feet from her deck. On the other side is Folson Park, then the river.
"I was told we'd be able to stand on the deck and look out into the park," Whicker said. "But I'd have to stand over my garage to look over it.
"I just can't believe it has to be that high."
Believe it. The new dikes in East Grand Forks and neighboring Grand Forks, N.D., are built to 60 feet, protecting the cities against river depths of 57 feet. The Red River crested at 54 feet during the catastrophic flood in April 1997.
Now that Phase I of levee construction is almost complete, some residents are getting a close-up look at the dikes. All are amazed at the height.
"The general public does not have a feel for elevations," said Greg Boppre, a consulting engineer for the city of East Grand Forks.
"Nothing has changed from the original (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) plan," he said. "But in certain areas, the corps has designed it to build higher than 60 feet because they know the dike will settle over time."
For JoAnne and Stan Whicker and next-door neighbors Don and Glenna Holweger, the dike took away about 100 feet of their back yards, which gently sloped into the park. They lost lawn, trees and gardens; the pleasure of seeing deer and foxes in their back yards at dawn; and dawn itself.
"We lost our view, but we'll be all right," Don Holweger said. "We'll just have to look out the front door."
But it was their choice. They pleaded and sparred with the city to stay. They have the only remaining homes on the east side of James Avenue over a long stretch. "I try not to gripe because we wanted to stay," Glenna said.
They wonder why the dike has to be so high when they sustained only basement damage in the 1997 flood. But they don't regret their decisions to fight to stay.
Residents who lose property to the dike are compensated for their lost value. For instance, the Whickers received $29,000, and the Holwegers get $31,000.
While dike neighbors in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks agree the dikes are higher than they had imagined, they're split on whether that's a nuisance or a blessing.
It's a blessing to Jeff Skyberg, of East Grand Forks. The dike is across the street from his front door, obscuring any view to the west. "You look at that dike and you can tell you're going to have protection if the river comes up," he said. "I'm still working on my house from the (1997) flood. I know I never want to go through that again."
But Jim Bechtold is upset with having a dike just feet from his garage. "We used to have one of the nicest locations in town," he said. "Now we live in a slum area. This has totally changed the neighborhood. We have no view. I can't see on the other side of the dike from my second story. I have to sit on my roof."
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